Dolly Parton Success Secrets: Hulu and Netflix Interviews
Dolly Parton has become my most recent obsession. After reading her book (see here) and studying her vocal technique here, I decided I had to learn more about this captivating icon. I watched her interviews on Hulu and Netflix, and learned so much about the music industry.
I want to share these with you, but I highly recommend watching them yourself! Hopefully these reviews will help you as you watch along.
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Here I Am: Dolly Parton Netflix Documentary
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Here is my video recap on this post if you prefer to watch:
We open the documentary with a delightful montage of Dolly being a queen, on and off stage. It’s cut between snippets of Dolly talking about herself (in her sweet, self-deprecating way) and others giving her accolades.
That being said, there are WAY too many gross comments by the men involved.
Most are session musicians. Since it’s a small industry, I don’t want to name names. Their names are in the documentary, but I’ll leave them out here.
“You can’t take the Tennessee out of the girl,” Session Musician #1 says, then wryly adds, “well, that’s as far as I’ll go with that, though.”
……..Is he saying he banged Dolly Parton? Is this a weird insult? It seems like an attempt at a joke, but maybe because I wasn’t born in Tennessee, I don’t get the reference.
After the intro, we are taken to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry in 2019 for Dolly’s 50th anniversary concert. She talks about how she dreamed of performing there as a child, and how that was the one way to be a famous singer back then. I feel like even if Dolly came out right now, today, she would still have the same impact. No one has her look, her wit, or her talent.
The stories of her childhood are very similar to the ones in her book. If you haven’t read that (or even if you had), this is still great info.
Session Musician #2 worked with Dolly when she was just starting out. This dude comes off like a giant asshole. He said he met Dolly as a “beautiful little blond girl,” and then calls her “quite naive and uneducated” and says that she spoke “gutter language.” Dude, go back to the 1830s. Are you kidding?
Dolly Parton’s Husband
Dolly discusses Carl Dean, her husband of over 50 years. None of Dolly’s session players have ever met him; many people claim he rarely leaves the house. I totally understand that, as an introvert. If I had a spouse that rich I’d never leave either.
While she has recently come forward to state that Black Lives Matter, Parton wasn’t always outspoken on her political beliefs. She was a musical pioneer for feminism in the 60s, so she was often asked about the Equal Rights movement in the 70s. Back then, she would give vague answers.
Linda Perry is interviewed, and for a split second I thought she was Steven Tyler. I have a great amount of respect for her so that’s not shade, I just had no idea what she looks like. She has a teardrop tattoo which makes me (incorrectly) assume that she murdered someone.
She explains it in this interview, if you’re curious:
Back to Session Musician #2, who has not stopped being gross.
He says that Dolly was close with Porter Wagoner (who put her on his show when she was starting out). He says they worked together for a long time and quips, “and you can take that anywhere you want to.” A). Stop being a creep. B). Who Dolly Parton bangs is none of your business; you’re jealous. C). Bye.
We get some shots of Porter Wagoner who looks like a mix of Max Headroom and my eccentric Hungarian grandmother:
We watch early footage of her recording vocals, which was of course the most exciting for me. Reel-to-reel recordings made with a live band in the room is so vastly different from today. Anyone can record from their closet, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.
Dolly Parton had many battles with Porter Wagoner. They were both hard-headed perfectionists and wanted their own way. The one song they agreed on was “I Will Always Love You.” Porter told her, “that song will make you more famous than all of your other songs combined.”
“I’ve never been the kind of writer that’s always looked for a perfect song. I write because I have to. I write because I love to.”– Dolly Parton
Elvis Presley wanted to sing “I Will Always Love You” because he loved it so much. Dolly turned him down, and she doesn’t give any reason as to why. CUT TO WHITNEY HOUSTON IN THE SNOW BELTING OUT THE PART OF THAT SONG THAT ALWAYS GIVES ME CHILLS.
God I love that woman so much. I love Dolly so much. I love that they shared this incredible song. Watching this part made me tear up, but I’m highly emotional right now (what’s new) so you might find yourself more dry-eyed, but you can’t deny this song is beautiful.
Dolly says of Whitney’s version: “I never thought that song could sound like that….she made me rich.”
We go to videos of child Dolly and of course, she’s adorable. She was the fourth of 12 children (holy crap) and songwriting was her passion from early on. Her uncle taught her to play guitar as a child.
Session Musician #1 is back, and he says that “Dolly has a hillbilly sound but everyone knows she’s smart.” I was about to be offended on her behalf, but then I realized she would probably agree with that whole statement, I’m an emotional wreck and I need to lighten up.
Almost every man has mentioned Dolly’s looks over her talent and smarts, and none of the women have. Strange, isn’t it?
I understand that’s a big part of her act, but it’s fascinating how many men couldn’t see past her boobs. She knows that and plays into it, further proving her intelligence.
I was just working on a piano cover of this song, and I’m driving myself insane because I just can’t do it any justice. I’m so far from Dolly Parton’s level it’s embarrassing. Still, Dolly laughs at how simple the chorus is, saying, “It’s not like I’m a genius or nothing.” OMG Dolly yes you are.
I guess Jolene was inspired by a true story?!
I thought it was about her meeting a fan named “Jolene” and she just liked the name. Apparently, there was a woman who tried to “take care of” her husband while she was gone (“a redheaded woman like a wildcat,” according to Dolly, which…me). I thought they had an open marriage, but whatever, not my business.
Imagine being such a skank that you inspire one of the greatest country/pop songs of all time. I’m not saying it’s good she did it, but we all benefitted from her actions.
AND THERE WAS A PHYSICAL FIGHT??
Dolly says this woman ripped her wig off “and beat me half to death with it.” Okay lady, now you’ve gone too far. Dolly could have you killed by literally anyone on earth.
It’s astounding that Parton could get her ass kicked by someone and then write a song about how perfect she is, but that’s the beauty of this song. Every woman who’s been cheated on goes through a comparison phase and comes up short, trust me. It’s not the story we like to tell, but Dolly is brave enough to go there.
Dolly’s transition to pop music was a surprise to all; she says she doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed. Her first pop album was a huge success, making her a world wide sensation.
We cut to an interview with Barbara Walters, who condescendingly insults her looks. So much for my previous statement about women not focusing on her looks.
Walters basically tells her that she’s pretty without all of her eccentricities, which is like saying, “you’re too pretty to have a personality.” Gag. I like Barbara Walters but she comes across as a huge bitch in this interview. Dolly serves her some southern wit and says she knows showbiz is a joke, and she wanted to grab peoples’ attention first, then show them she had talent.
I think Parton paved the way for so many other acts to follow that. Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus (Dolly’s goddaughter) and many others have borrowed from Parton’s Playbook.
Jane Fonda appears to discuss “9 to 5,” a movie I still regrettably haven’t seen. Dolly agreed to be in the film, but only if she could write the theme song. It was a boss move, and it obviously paid off.
In this video, I break down Dolly Parton’s singing style and vocal techniques on this song:
Both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin discuss working with Parton and said she was an “absolute professional” and that they were all friends. When they recorded the “9 to 5” song, she had every woman involved with the movie do the background vocals. How cool is that?
Country vs Bluegrass
Shockingly, RCA dropped Dolly Parton after it seemed that she couldn’t bring them the same sales as before. Parton says she was still determined to make and sell music, even if she had to do it from the trunk of her car.
Confusingly, they spin this into her venture into Bluegrass music, as if this was a brand new thing for her. I’m admittedly ignorant about the differences between country and bluegrass (one has a fiddle?) but honestly…to me this just sounded like a return to her original roots. That’s not a bad thing at all, but I’m confused as to why they chose this narrative as something new for her.
The bluegrass albums got great reviews, but they “didn’t bring the commercial success she was used to,” per the film.
I mean…yeah. She was so huge with “9 to 5” and that was more commercially pop, and there isn’t as big of a market for bluegrass.
I understand being disappointed by less success than you’re used to, but when you’re at the very top, there’s only one way left to go. Similar to Whitney Houston’s success with “The Bodyguard” movie and music, she had a hard time recapturing that success after that. That’s okay, and Dolly seems to agree.
Enter Danny Nozell, Dolly’s new manager. She hadn’t had a manager for a long time prior to meeting him and was very reluctant. He wanted to market her as a legendary icon, and says that he had a detailed plan and was prepared to execute it. He seems like every singer’s dream manager, tbh.
Nozell sold out 14 arenas for Dolly’s new show in 60 minutes. Holy crap. Danny Nozell deserves a lot of credit for bringing her career back.
We end the documentary with her entering the stage at Grand Old Opry and sort of singing “I Will Always Love You,” but they don’t play the whole thing and add people talking over it. The parts where she sings give me chills though, and I’m sure there are plenty of live videos of her singing on YouTube.
Overall it was a fantastic documentary and I highly recommend it. Whether you’re a songwriter, a singer, or just a Dolly Parton fan, you’ll get a lot of great info from this and become inspired.
Dolly Parton: Here She Comes Again | Hulu Interview
This show is a bit shorter, but I do have some info and thoughts to share. If you’re still here, congratulations. You’ve made it this far, you might as well keep reading!
If you’re exhausted by my words (believe me, I get it) feel free to pin this to come back later:
Robin Roberts of ABC news sat with Dolly Parton to ask questions about her career. Although it’s on Hulu, its mainly about her new series “Heartstrings” on Netflix. Kinda weird to advertise a competitor, no? I plan on watching all of them and reviewing them, so stick around if you want to see that.
Parton says her family was very poor and had no electricity. However, there are quite a few videos of her as a young child (also used in the documentary).
There is a particularly awkward interview with a radio host:
“Dolly Parton has a theme park named after her. How many people actually have a theme park named after them? Well…Disney and Dolly Parton. Is there a Johnny Six Flags?! I’m not sure.”– Radio/Tv Host I don’t want to name because I want to protect his name from this quote
It seemed like he had nothing else to say and was trying to make a joke, but why include this in the show? I dunno, it’s just awkward.
Speaking of awkward, we get more (different) cuts of her Barbara Walters interviews. Parton told her about her plans to open Dollywood four years before it happen. Robin Roberts remarks how profound it is that she said that. It reminded me of her book where she declares that everything always works out for her.
I don’t want to comment too much on her looks, since everyone else does that. However, at age 73 her legs look incredible.
Back to feminism: Dolly Parton is all about girl power and wants to support other women in the industry. Her first RCA record was “Just Because I’m a Woman,” which was one of the first songs about slut shaming:
They mention how the movie “9 to 5” was ahead of its time in feminism and the “Me Too” movement. There are many nameless people (I assume they’re all country artists but I only recognize Luke Bryan and Hunter Hayes). They all get one line where they say “9 to 5 is a great song” 30 different ways. I mean…we get it. No one gets named and it’s a confusing seizure flipping through each person so fast.
Steel Magnolias comes up, and I totally forgot she was in this movie. In high school I won a community theater award for playing Annelle in this play, for “Excellence in Performing.” I am not a great actor, so the bar was pretty low.
Dolly was on Hannah Montana, and she had some particularly cringe-worthy lines. I never watched the show so I don’t know if that was standard for everyone, or if they just didn’t know what she should say.
Despite seeming like a constantly happy person, Dolly Parton has had some setbacks. At the top of her career, she fainted on stage and quit for four months. “I just had a complete breakdown,” she says, mentioning that she is a Highly Sensitive Person. I am too, and I can’t imagine having this big of a career.
Trigger Warning: Suicide
A lot of Dolly’s early songs were about suicide. She says she got close to suicide herself. She wants to talk about it so other people get help. Parton says she’s grateful that it happened, because it helps her relate to people and gave her plenty of songwriting material.
They really teased the breakdown part of the interview, but it’s only a few sentences.
Dolly’s creative peak is between 2am to 8am. Songwriters, take note!
They show Whitney Houston’s cover, which makes me cheer. We see multiple famous covers of “Jolene,” ranging from cringey to abysmal. I am no longer scared to release my version, because it can’t be worse. Truly, no one can sing Jolene like Dolly Parton.
When recording demos, Parton still uses cassette tapes. She has to order them off of eBay. If this seems primitive, most Nashville demos are still submitted on CD, so she’s not too far behind.
Giving Back to Her Community
Gatlinburg residents call Dolly Parton “Saint Dolly,” because she saved the whole damn town after a massive wildfire. She gave 900 families $1000 per month. It doesn’t say how many months that lasted, but HOLY SHIT. $900,000 a MONTH?! That is truly saint-worthy.
She also founded the “Imagination Library,” which sends books to children. Parents tearfully discuss how grateful they are and of course, I teared up too. It is truly moving. Dolly says her father inspired this program because he couldn’t read or write.
We end the interview with a live performance of “9 to 5.”
As much as I love the song, this particular version is waaaaay too fast. She has to basically rap the words because there’s no time to sing them. You can also tell that the band can’t really hear each other. I’m not sure why they would end the interview on this note, especially when there are so many other live performances to share.
Even when the performance isn’t perfect, we see what an absolute performing pro she is.
I’ve had to perform versions of my song that were way too fast (thanks keyboard player who didn’t show up to rehearsals!). I definitely wasn’t as good as Dolly at improvising. I think I dropped entire lines because I couldn’t fit them. So, I’m not insulting this performance, just stating facts.
That’s it for my extensive (and probably unnecessary) reviews of the Dolly Parton interviews!
If you enjoyed this, I truly thank you for reading. Please subscribe if you’d like to see more reviews (not just of Dolly Parton) in the future. I also plan on reviewing her “Heartstrings” series and her Netflix Christmas movie, so stay tuned!