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Story Behind Parton’s “Jolene”

Story Behind Parton’s “Jolene”

Ever wonder where great songs come from?

How do take a real life event and create a compelling story that never happened? Dolly Parton shows you how.

Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” was a combination of a flirty bank teller, her husband making too many runs to the bank, and a fan with just the right name.

Parton tells the story of the innocent flirtation that turned into a story and a hit:

“She got this terrible crush on my husband,” Parton explains. “And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us — when I was saying, ‘Hell, you’re spending a lot of time at the bank. I don’t believe we’ve got that kind of money.’ So it’s really an innocent song all around but sounds like a dreadful one.”

And nothing ever came of the trips to the bank. Dolly didn’t lose her husband to someone else.

The name Jolene, however, came from a quick conversation with a fan.

“One night, I was on stage, and there was this beautiful little girl — she was probably 8 years old at the time,” Parton says. “And she had this beautiful red hair, this beautiful skin, these beautiful green eyes, and she was looking up at me, holding, you know, for an autograph. I said, ‘Well, you’re the prettiest little thing I ever saw. So what is your name?’ And she said, ‘Jolene.’ And I said, ‘Jolene. Jolene. Jolene. Jolene.’

I said, ‘That is pretty. That sounds like a song. I’m going to write a song about that.’”

This is a great example of not letting the truth get in the way of a good song!


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