Too often, early in her career, too much emphasis was focused on Dolly Parton’s facade, rather than her music. That always irked me. Remove the glitz, de-glimmer the glamour, abandon the wigs, and disregard the tits (and forget the plastic surgery) and what you get in Dolly is one of the singular greatest forces of nature in the history of Pop or Country – not only a singer for the ages, but a songwriter nonpareil.
Of course the world recognizes Parton’s unabashedly proud garishness. As Stephen Sondheim once wrote, “You Gotta Get A Gimmick”. But unlike the siren strippers in GYPSY, Parton was never dependent on gimmickry as a pathway to mega-stardom – she merely sprinkled it on a little something extra. And, too, no one cannot depend on such stratagem on the path toward iconic status. It takes a helluva lot of genius and talent to back up such hosannas.
And for nearly 5 decades and going strong, Parton has made a comfortable home upon the mountaintop of Country Music and sustained where few have – living immortality.
Country music is one of the purest of American art forms and Parton its Norman Rockwell, for few have been able to paint such archetypal songscapes that would require an elongated scroll utilizing the most revered superlatives.
Already established as a Country Music icon, even in 1977, she was slowly penetrating Pop culturism (to the extent that “Pop Culture” existed in 1977) – countless TV appearances, film, and even adding Pop and Disco to her musical oeuvre (“Here You Come Again” and “Baby I’m Burning” respectively, as examples). The force still hasn’t stopped – happy for us.
Parton’s popularity has never waned across the world. In 1977, she appeared on the popular West German music show Der Musikladen (which was the continuation of the defunct Beat Club). The extraordinary thing about watching these clips – over three decades past – is how astonishing Parton’s voice has remained almost exact. Her vocals have aged in knowledge only – but that timbre, that soul, that range and that innate lovability, even in the face of adversary – remain astonishingly clarion-like.
Enjoy this rare and enchanting concert~
Parton covers Jackie Wilson’s 1967 soul classic, which was recorded for her #1 Country album, 1977s NEW HARVEST…FIRST GATHERING~
Dolly sings the title song of her 1976 album ALL I CAN DO; both the album and the single reached #3 on the Billboard Country Album charts and Singles charts respectively~
Dolly performs the classic title song from her 1974 album JOLENE; the song reached #1 in 1973 before the album was released. It is ranked #217 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“.
“My Tennessee Mountain Home” was a #15 Country Hit and the title track from her 1973 album of the same name, which hit #19 on the Billboard Country Album charts.
“Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” was a song that Parton wrote and performed in the 70s but never recorded until the early 80s (on her HEARTBREAK EXPRESS album) and reached #1 on the Country charts in 1982 as a double-A side companion to her re-recording of “I Will Always Love You” for the soundtrack of THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. Here, Dolly performs the song in it’s regular “45RPM” speed, then at “78RPM”. Delightful.
“Coat Of Many Colors” was a #4 Country hit, released from her #7 Country album of the same name. Released in 1971, it remains a staple in her live shows and displays, early on, in depth and in detail, what an astounding songwriter Parton is.
“Apple Jack” is a cut from Parton’s #1 Country album, 1977s NEW HARVEST…FIRST GATHERING~
“Light Of A Clear Blue Morning”, in the original incarnation of her #1 Country album NEW HARVEST…FIRST GATHERING, is my favorite Parton song. Her vocals soar, the melodies morph from bittersweet contemplation to eventual exaltation. Oddly, it only reached #11 on the Country charts. Parton re-recorded the song twice, to lesser degrees; first for the soundtrack of her 1992 film STRAIGHT TALK, then again for her 2004 ‘spiritual’ CD FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.
“I Will Always Love You” is Parton’s signature masterpiece. Nothing needs to be said of it.
“Getting In My Way” is a track from Dolly’s #1 1977 NEW HARVEST…FIRST GATHERING LP.
“Me and Little Andy” is a track from Dolly’s mega-successful pop-crossover LP, 1977s HERE YOU COME AGAIN.
“How Does It Feel” is a track from Parton’s #1 1977 NEW HARVEST…FIRST GATHERING LP.
Dolly closes the show with “Holdin’ On To You”/”The Seeker”, a medley of two tracks from two Parton albums. “Holdin’” is taken from Parton’s 1977 NEW HARVEST…FIRST GATHERING and “The Seeker” is a track from her 1975 DOLLY: THE SEEKER/WE USED TO.