Meaning of “Jolene” by Dolly Parton

“Jolene” is a song by multiple award winning American country singer and songwriter Dolly Parton. The lyrics of “Jolene” are about a desperate housewife who confronts a very beautiful seductress named Jolene because she believes she (Jolene) is deliberately trying to steal her man from her. The desperate woman begs Jolene again and again to have mercy on her and not take her man away from her.

According to Dolly Parton, the song’s lyrics are autobiographical and were inspired by an incident at a local bank when one of the female bank workers flirted with her newly married husband Carl Dean.

While performing the song at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival, Parton said she wrote the song when her husband was spending a lot of “time with Jolene” – the redhead bank worker who was flirting with him. Parton told the audience that upon noticing what was going on between her husband and the redhead woman, she wasted no time in getting rid of her. She went on to say that the incident was a blessing in disguise because had it not been for the woman she would have never been able to write “Jolene” and make a lot of money out of the song. She went on to thank Jolene live on stage.

FYI: Parton and Dean got married in 1966.

In an interview she had in 2008 with the National Public Radio (NPR), Parton said the song’s title as well as the appearance of its main character was inspired by a young, beautiful female fan, who had come to her for an autograph. According to Parton, the young fan had very beautiful red hair, pretty green eyes, and beautiful skin.

Lyrics of Jolene by Dolly Parton

Facts about “Jolene”

  • The song was written by Dolly Parton and produced by the renowned American country music producer and songwriter Bob Fergusson.
  • The song was released on November 3, 1973 as the first single from her thirteenth solo studio album titled “Jolene”.
  • In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed this song at the 217th position on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Upon peaking at number 1 on the U.S. Hot Country Songs, “Jolene” became Parton’s second single to achieve that feat. Despite being a number-one country single for Parton, the song wasn’t a major hit for her on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number 60. On the UK Singles, the song peaked at number 7.
  • Of all the songs written by Parton, “Jolene” is currently the most covered. Since its release in 1973, several dozens of artists have covered this song. Some of the most notable covers include that of the renowned a cappella group Pentatonix. This particular cover featured Parton. Other notable musicians and bands, who have covered the song include Miley Cyrus, who is the goddaughter of Parton; The White Stripes; Sophie Ellis-Bextor; Darcy Clay; Mindy Smith; and Ellie Goulding.



Did “Jolene” win a Grammy Award?

The song was nominated twice for a Grammy Award in the Best Country Vocal Performance, Female category – the first time at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards in 1975 and the second time at the 18th Annual Grammy Awards in 1976. However, the song failed to win the award in both 1975 and 1976.

After over 40 years of receiving its first Grammy nomination, the song eventually went on to win a Grammy in the category of the Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the 59th Grammy Awards in 2017. However, this wasn’t the original version; it was the cover by Pentatonix featuring Parton.

1 Response

  1. Belinda says:

    Still such a haunting song

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