Dolly Parton Details the Stories Behind Her 10 Favorite Songs in New Book

by Keeli Parkey
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In the new book, “Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics,” the popular singer-songwriter, with the help of Robert K. Oermann, is sharing the stories behind some of her favorite – and most famous songs – like never before.

During a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Dolly Parton shared why the book was titled “Songteller” and not songwriter. “Well, when we were trying to name the book, I was going to be talking about songs I had written,” Parton told Colbert. “And, I really think of myself as a songteller; because I write songs and I tell stories in my songs, so that just popped in my mind – songteller. I thought, well that’s a good name for my coffee table book.”

During the Colbert interview, Parton said the book would share details of more than 150 of her songs and how she came to write them. Highlighting the new book are details about 10 of Parton’s favorite songs, according to a recent article by Parade.com.

“Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton from 1971

This is a song many people who grew up poor identify with and one of Parton’s most personal works. “It’s been written into a school book to teach children that it’s all right to be different,” Parade.com reports. “So that little song is like a world of things. It teaches about bullying, about love, about acceptance, about good parents.”

“The Last One to Touch Me” from 1971

This song, Parton says, is about her husband Carl Dean who has usually stayed out of his wife’s spotlight. “The longer Carl and I are together on our journey, the more the lyrics of ‘The Last One to Touch Me’ mean to me,” Parton says. “He is my home and my heart.” 

“Daddy’s Working Boots” by Dolly Parton from 1972

Another of Parton’s favorites is about her father, Robert Lee Parton, who passed away in 2000. He was reportedly the inspiration for her Imagination Library, which has provided millions of books to children in Parton’s home state of Tennessee and across the globe.

“Jolene” from 1973

This wildly popular song references Parton’s feelings after Carl Dean flirted with another woman at a local bank. “I went down there and she was pretty,” she writes. “And he was flirting. And I made the whole thing into my song’s lyric.”

“I Will Always Love You” from 1974

Although written when Parton chose to leave the “Porter Wagoner Show,” this song gained worldwide popularity when it was recorded by Whitney Houston for “The Bodyguard” in 1992.

“Cracker Jack” by Dolly Parton from 1974

This is a loving tribute to dogs Parton and her family members owned over the years. “They have unconditional love,” she says of pets.

“9 to 5” from 1980

Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin joined forces for a movie about empowering women in the workplace long before the #MeToo movement made national news. This song is the title track of the popular film, which shows the three women getting revenge on their boss, who is described as “a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

“Everything’s Beautiful (In Its Own Way) from 1982

Parton recorded this song, according to Parade.com, as a fundraiser for Fred Foster along with Willie Nelson, with whom they both worked at his Monument Records label.

“Little Sparrow” from 2001

Parton reportedly found inspiration for this title track of this 2001 album from Appalachian folk music. Parton’s soprano voice shines in the song’s a capella performance.

“When Life Gets Good Again” from 2020

Parton’s song about surviving the chaos of 2020 and its global pandemic was written alongside Kent Wells; it is an uplifting anthem of survival. The lyrics include: “We’ll make it through this long dark night. Darkness fades when faced with lift. And everything’s gonna be alright. When life is good again.”

“Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics” from Chronicle Books will be available Nov. 17.

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