Dolly Parton No. 1 Hits: History of Her Chart-Topping Tracks

by Jacklyn Krol
dolly-parton-no-1-hits-history-chart-topping-tracks

Dolly Parton is known as the Queen of Country for good reason. The singer has been making hit after hit and gaining a fanbase even outside of the country music genre. Learn the stories behind all of her No. 1 singles.

First No. 1 Dolly Parton Hit “Joshua”

“Joshua” was the first No. 1 single for Dolly Parton. Parton became a hit on The Porter Wagoner Show which kickstarted her career. Her storytelling lyricism shined on the song while she sang about a lonely mean old man.

“I remember feeling like all our hard work had paid off: I was going to be able to make a life in this business,” she recalled to Billboard. “I don’t remember making that much money from [“Joshua”] at that time, but I’m sure I spent it on stage clothes or my family or something like that.”

  • Album: Joshua
  • Year: 1970
  • Standout lyric: “We talked ’til the sun was clean out of sight / And we still talking when it come daylight”
  • Awards: Grammy nomination for Best Country Female Vocalist

“Jolene”

Jolene” was recorded on May 22, 1973, in RCA Studio B in Nashville alongside producer Bob Ferguson. She wrote the song the same day as she wrote: “I Will Always Love You.” The song also reached No. 1 in the U.K., a first for her. Surprisingly, there was no woman named Jolene. She was inspired to write the song after a bank clerk flirted with her husband. Meanwhile, Jolene’s appearance was inspired by a fan. The song has become a cultural phenomenon and covered by artists from every genre of music.

  • Album: Jolene
  • Year: 1973
  • RIAA: Gold
  • Standout lyric: “Please don’t take him just because you can”
  • Awards: Grammy nomination Best Female Country Vocal Performance, later won the Grammy for her rendition with Pentatonix in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance category

“I Will Always Love You” (Three Times)

I Will Always Love You” served as a farewell to her partner Porter Wagoner as she was leaving their show after seven years together. Parton is one of the handful of artists in history to be able to reach No. 1 twice with the same song. She re-recorded the song in 1982 for the soundtrack to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Finally, Whitney Houston gave her own rendition of the song which served as the unofficial theme song to her film, The Bodyguard. It became a crossover hit and Houston’s version stayed at the top of the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks. It is also the best-selling single from a solo female in history.

  • Album: Jolene, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Bodyguard
  • Year: 1974, 1982, 1992
  • RIAA: Gold
  • Standout lyric: “If I should stay / I would only be in your way”
  • Awards: Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, won CMA Vocal Event of the Year

“Love is Like a Butterfly”

Her Dollywood theme park incorporates a butterfly in the logo as the “w.” The butterfly has a significant meaning for Parton and she now frequently uses it as a symbol. “They tell stories about me getting lost in the woods, and getting in trouble chasing butterflies,” she told ABC. “I wrote a song called ‘Love Is Like a Butterfly,’ and it became a big hit in my early years.”

  • Album: Love Is Like A Butterfly
  • Year: 1974
  • Standout lyric: “Love is like a butterfly / As soft and gentle as a sigh”

“The Bargain Store”

The Bargain Store” is a metaphor about a woman’s failed relationship. Unfortunately, some radio stations believed it had sexual context in the line, “You can easily afford the price. Love is all you need to purchase all the merchandise.” The controversy didn’t stop it from reaching No. 1. It was most recently featured in an episode of Stranger Things, Season 1.

  • Album: The Bargain Store
  • Year: 1975
  • Standout lyric: “Why you take for instance this old broken heart / If you will just replace the missing part”

“Here You Come Again”

“Here You Come Again” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They originally wrote the song with Brenda Lee in mind but she passed on the song. According to Rolling Stone, Parton believed that it sounded too pop so she asked that they add steel guitar to the track. Not only was it a smash on the country charts, but it also peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The recording has been featured on shows like The Office, Supergirl, and Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. Furthermore, Katy Perry and Kacey Musgraves covered the song to honor Parton at the MusiCares event in 2019.

  • Album: Here You Come Again
  • Year: 1977
  • RIAA: Gold
  • Standout lyric: “You waltz right in the door, just like you’ve done before / And wrap my heart ’round your little finger”
  • Awards: Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance

“It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”

Parton sings about needing a former lover one last time. Although it’s wrong it is all right. Once again, this song became a crossover sensation as it reached the top 20 on the Hot 100 chart. The single was apart of a double-A-sided single, “Two Doors Down”/”It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right.”

  • Album: Here You Come Again
  • Year: 1978
  • Standout lyric: “The amber sunset glow has died / My needs are very much alive”

“Heartbreaker”

Carole Bayer Sager and David Wolfert co-wrote the title track to Parton’s 1978 album, Heartbreaker. Along with topping the country charts, it also rose to No. 12 on the Easy Listening chart. She performed the song on October 9, 1978, at the 12th Annual Country Music Association Awards.

  • Album: Heartbreaker
  • Year: 1978
  • Standout lyric: “The amber sunset glow has died / My needs are very much alive”

“I Really Got The Feeling”

“I Really Got The Feeling” was written by Billy Vera and produced by Gary Klein, Parton, and Charles Koppelman. It also reached No. 11 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The single was a double-sided release with “Baby I’m Burnin'” which reached the country, adult contemporary, and dance/disco charts.

  • Album: Heartbreaker
  • Year: 1978
  • Standout lyric: “You’re a gentle man / And a gentle man is getting mighty hard to find these days”

“You’re The Only One”

“You’re The Only One” was written by Carole Bayer Sager and Bruce Roberts, who also wrote “Heartbreaker.” This was another double-sided release with “Help!” Parton was still in her crossover phase and this song reached No. 37 on the pop chart while reaching No. 12 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

  • Album: Great Balls of Fire
  • Year: 1979
  • Standout lyric: ‘Take me back to where we started from / And let’s make it now like we made it then”

“Starting Over Again”

“Starting Over Again” was originally written by Donna Summer and her husband Bruce Sudano. Summer also recorded a version of the song as a b-side that she performed on tour in the 80s. Parton’s version reached  No. 36 on the pop charts and No. 1 on the country charts. Parton wasn’t the only country artist to put their spin on the song. Reba McEntire released the song in 1995 for her album of the same name. Her version peaked No. 17 on the Hot Country chart.

  • Album: Dolly, Dolly, Dolly
  • Year: 1980
  • Standout lyric: “He’s scheming big deals with one of his friends / While she sits at home / Just sorting out pieces / Of leftover memories”

“Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You”

 Hugh Moffatt and Pebe Sebert co-wrote “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You.” Parton was the second artist to record the song, as Joe Sun released his No. 14 country chart version in 1978. Parton re-recorded the song with Sebert’s daughter, pop singer Kesha. Kesha originally covered the song for her 2012 EP Deconstructed before dueting with Parton in 2017 for her Rainbow record.

“I have always looked up to Dolly,” she told NPR. “I always wanted to get a tattoo: ‘What would Dolly do?’ Because I always think about that whenever I’m in a situation or when I’m in an interview. She’s just been such a positive compass for me in my career as a woman. The fact that I actually got to sing ‘Old Flames’ with her on this album is a really, really, really big deal for me.”

  • Album: Dolly, Dolly, Dolly
  • Year: 1980
  • Standout lyric: “Old flames can’t hold a candle to you / No one can light up the night like you do”

“Islands in the Stream” Featuring Dolly Parton

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s duet is an all-genre hit. The song was written by the pop trio the Bee Gees, who later recorded a version for their album. Originally, the group wrote it for Marvin Gaye and it had an R&B style to it. They rewrote it for Rogers and added pop and country undertones. The single reached No. 1 on the pop, country, and Adult Contemporary charts.

Rogers told Taste of Country that. it was Barry Gibb who had the idea for the Parton duet. At that point, Rogers and Parton did not know each other, although he appeared on The Porter Wagoner Show once with his band First Edition. “And my manager said, ‘I just saw her downstairs,'” Rogers recalled to the outlet. “So I said, ‘Go get her and bring her back.'” The rest is history.

  • Album: Eyes That See In The Dark
  • Year: 1983
  • RIAA: 1.5x Platinum
  • Standout lyric: “All this love we feel / Needs no conversation”

“9 to 5”

Parton starred in the film of the same name with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. This marked her acting debut but she also lent her vocals to the movie and subsequent television show’s theme song. “9 to 5” was inspired by the sound of her acrylic fingernails making a similar noise to a typewriter. Parton became the second woman to have a single that reached the No. 1 spot on both the country chart and all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart.

  • Album: 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs
  • Year: 1984
  • RIAA: Platinum
  • Standout lyric: “Well, I tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen / Pour myself a cup of ambition”

“Tennessee Homesick Blues”

“Tennessee Homesick Blues” was featured in the film Rhinestone. Parton wrote the song and it was inspired by her upbringing in the Tennessee mountain. It reached No. 1 in both the United States and Canada. She earned her tenth nomination in the Grammy category for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

  • Album: Rhinestone
  • Year: 1984
  • Standout lyric: “What I wouldn’t give for a little bitty taste / Of Mama’s homemade chocolate cake”
  • Awards: Grammy nomination Best Country Vocal performance

“Real Love” Featuring Kenny Rogers

“Real Love” was written by  David Malloy, Richard Brannon, and Randy McCormick. Additionally, it reached No. 13 on the Adult Contemporary chart. In 1984, Parton recorded her solo version for her record,  I Will Always Love You: The Essential Dolly Parton One. The duet sparked a concert tour with Kenny Rogers and HBO concert special of the same name.

  • Album: Real Love
  • Year: 1985
  • RIAA: Gold
  • Standout lyric: “I know they say that it’s a fine line between giving up and giving in”

“Think About Love”

“Think About Love” was written by Richard Brannan and Tom Campbell. The following year, Parton remixed the song for her compilation remix record of the same name. She gave an epic rendition of the song at Glastonbury in 2014.

  • Album: Real Love
  • Year: 1985
  • Standout lyric: “So when you think about love, think about me / I can give you more than you’ll ever need”

“To Know Him is to Love Him” Featuring Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt

Phil Spector originally wrote the song after he was inspired by the phrase on his father’s tombstone. His band, the Teddy Bears, recorded it in 1958 and it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Bobby Vinton and Peter and Gordon. The acts changed the title to “you” instead of “him.”

Finally, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Parton teamed up for a collaboration album where they put their spin on the song. Their music video was directed by Star Wars legend George Lucas, who Ronstadt was dating at the time.

  • Album: Trio
  • Year: 1987
  • Standout lyric: “Just to see him smile / Makes my life worthwhile”

“Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That”

“Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That” was Parton’s fourteenth No. 1 hit. Bob Carlisle and Randy Thomas wrote the tune. Parton performed the song while she hosted Saturday Night Live in 1989. Ricky Skaggs recorded the acoustic guitar, harmony vocals, mandolin and fiddle on the song. The music video for the single is a fan favorite. Parton is seen with her team auditioning men to be her love interest in her next video. The winner? A stagehand.

  • Album: White Limozeen
  • Year: 1989
  • Standout lyric: “He’s got a wanderin’ eye and a travelin’ mind / Big ideas and a little behind”

“Yellow Roses”

“Yellow Roses” was written and recorded by Parton and stayed on the country chart for 26 weeks. The flower quickly became a symbol for Parton and her fans. The ballad tells the story of a relationship that has run its course. She remembers her past love when she sees a yellow rose and instantly goes back to the time when they were together and questions why they fell apart.

  • Album: White Limozeen
  • Year: 1989
  • Standout lyric: “The color of sunshine / You loved me at one time”

“Rockin’ Years” Featuring Dolly Parton

Parton teamed up with Ricky Van Shelton to record the Floyd Parton-written song. The song tells the sweet story of a couple who promise to love one another until they’re in rocking chairs for their “rockin’ years.” Blake Shelton later recorded the song. for his album Backroads.

  • Album: Eagle When She Flies
  • Year: 1991
  • Standout lyric: “Rockin’ chairs, rockin’ babies, rock-a-bye, rock of ages”

“When I Get Where I’m Going” Featuring Dolly Parton

Parton teamed up with Brad Paisley for her 25th No. 1 hit and his fifth. Paisley co-wrote the song with George Teren and Rivers Rutherford. At the time, Rutherford lost his grandfather and was inspired by his desire to see him again.

One of the most iconic lyrics in the song is about petting a lion. Paisley explained that he was watching a preacher on television when a man attacked the preacher. “The preacher got back up and said, ‘I wouldn’t worry for a minute. I know where I’m going, and I can’t wait to get there,'” he recalled to Rolling Stone via Country Daily. “The Bible says that the lion will lay down with the lamb. Can you imagine what it would be like to lay down with a lion and run your fingers through its mane?’ Something about that image just stuck in my head, and 25 years later I remembered that sermon when I was writing with George Teren.”

  • Album: Time Well Wasted
  • Year: 2005
  • RIAA: Platinum
  • Standout lyric: “I will shed the sins and struggles / I have carried all these years / And I’ll leave my heart wide open / I will love and have no fear”
  • Awards: ACM Video of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year, CMA Vocal Event of the Year

“Forever Country” Featuring Dolly Parton

“Forever Country” was an all-star collaboration that mashed up Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” Nelson’s “On The Road Again,” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.” It was recorded by previous CMA winners including Parton and Nelson. The song and music video closed with Parton singing her hit.

  • Album: None
  • Year: 2016
  • RIAA: Platinum
  • Standout lyric: “I will always love you”
  • Awards: ACM Video of the Year, CMCA Video of the Year
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