Dolly Parton has never done things by the book.
The fourth of 12 children from an impoverished family in rural Tennessee, Parton moved to Nashville immediately after graduating from high school, determined to launch a career in show business. Before long, songs she’d written made the charts, and she signed her first record deal in 1965 at the age of 19.
“I never thought of being anything other than a star, and I never had a Plan B,” she told the Washington Times in 2006. “If I had become something else, it would have been either a beautician or a missionary – but I never thought about giving up and always knew I’d succeed.”
Parton’s success as a country recording artist is unquestioned. She has released an astounding 48 albums and has plans to issue her next one at some point later this year. This time, however, she’s plugging in and turning up the dial to 11.
Titled Rock Star, the LP is Parton’s response to her recent induction into the Rock & Roll of Fame. Parton initially asked to be removed from the voting ballot, questioning the idea of being honored in a genre she felt she did not best represent. The request was quickly denied by the Rock Hall, and her nomination — and ultimate victory — sparked some controversy among rock fans.
She promptly vowed to make a rock album. Parton has described her husband as a “rock ‘n’ roll freak,” and admitted she’d been contemplating the idea for a while before her nomination came through. “This may have been just a God-wink for me to go ahead and do that,” she told Billboard.
Rock Star will include both cover songs and originals. So far, Parton has revealed that the album contains covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Free Bird,” the Rolling Stones‘ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” Led Zeppelin‘s “Stairway to Heaven,” Journey‘s “Open Arms,” Prince‘s “Purple Rain,” Elton John‘s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and Miley Cyrus‘ “Wrecking Ball.” There will also be some originals, including an updated version of her 1973 hit “I Will Always Love You” and a newly penned track that Parton debuted at her Rock Hall induction called “Rockin’.”
Parton isn’t going it alone. She’s invited an all-star cast of musicians to join her on Rock Star, ranging from rock legends to contemporary performers.
Steve Perry has recorded vocals for “Open Arms” – “her voice is amazing!” Perry later tweeted — and Paul McCartney joined her for a rendition of “Let It Be.” Other confirmed guests whose song placements have yet to be revealed include Steven Tyler, John Fogerty, Ringo Starr, Mick Fleetwood, Joan Jett, Simon Le Bon, Elton John, Pat Benatar and Parton’s “new friend” Stevie Nicks.
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A group of younger artists will be featured on the album, as well. Pink and Brandi Carlile will be heard on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” while Miley Cyrus will appear on “I Will Always Love You” and “Wrecking Ball.” “I love that song, and I love hearing Miley singing it,” Parton told Elite Daily.
Some recorded remotely, while other collaborations found Parton face-to-face with guests in the studio, which she described to Taste of Country as “one of the greatest thrills.”
Parton said she and Fogerty “did it just like the old days. He said, ‘Let’s just do this with a real band in the studio in real-time. You get in this booth and I’ll get in here, and we can look at each other and we’ll sing.'”
Carlile was asked in 2021 who she looked to for inspiration in terms of having a long, successful career. Parton was her immediate answer. “She’s just a totally different kind of public person, musically, spiritually,” Carlile told Rolling Stone. “She’s a really good person and a major bridge builder between people.”
An enthused Parton says, “my life just gets better and better. I get older and older but I don’t feel it and I don’t work it. I just try to still work like I did when I was young, but life has been good to me,” she told Forbes.
“I’ve been very blessed and I’ve always wondered what life would be if I was successful with my work and how people would see me in my later years,” she added, “and now I’m here and it’s nice to know that I seem to be still important in the world and I can still do some things to try to help make life a little bit better if I can. So, it’s been a great journey. It’s had its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I don’t know what else I’d do if not this.”
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