If ever there was a country music angel, it is Dolly Parton.
In a career that has spanned over 50 years, Parton has racked up 25 RIAA-certified gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards and has had 26 songs reach #1 on the Billboard country charts. And yes, that is a record for a female artist.
So, to come up with just 10 songs that would ultimately encapsulate her very best contributions to the country music world certainly proved to be a daunting task. But we loved every second of it.
10. “God Only Knows” (w/King & Country)
In a world that has long needed the religious message that a majority of Parton’s catalog of music has given them, the country legend joined with King & Country for “God Only Knows” in 2019. And in doing so, Parton gave us all a reminder that we are never alone in this world, no matter what.
Parton’s distinctive voice powers through the already powerhouse vocals of King & Country, making it one of Parton’s most epic songs of her long and celebrated career. In fact, Parton is on record saying that it was ‘one of the best songs’ she’s ever heard.’
And we couldn’t agree more.
9. “He’s Alive”
Dolly Parton walked out onto the stage of the 1989 CMA Awards, and put on a performance of “He’s Alive” that not only touched the entire country music community, but continues to change the world thanks to YouTube.
As fans will recall, Parton performed the Don Francisco song off her 1989 album White Limozeen in preparation for the Easter holiday. Backed by a powerful choir, Parton was nothing short of astounding, and went and proved that her voice has truly been touched by heaven’s hand.
8. “Coat of Many Colors”
There is a magic that comes with Parton’s song “Coat of Many Colors.” Written in 1969 and recorded in 1971, “Coat of Many Colors” is based on the biblical story of Joseph and yes, his coat of many colors.
But more importantly, “Coat of Many Colors” is actually the true story of Parton’s childhood, when her mom would do whatever she could to put together clothes for Parton and her siblings. The song would reach the top five upon its release, but then received quite a resurgence thanks to a series of made for TV movies released by Parton both in 2015 and 2016.
7. “Christmas Without You” (with Kenny Rogers)
When you look at an entire musical catalog for any artist, rarely would a holiday song make the cut. However, “Christmas Without You” remains one of the most treasured holiday duets of all time.
Included on Parton and Kenny Rogers 1984 album Once Upon a Christmas, the song was featured on the television special Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember, with Parton and Rogers acting out the song with a wartime storyline.
6. “Islands in the Stream” (with Kenny Rogers)
There has always been a magic between Parton and Kenny Rogers, and that easygoing feeling was beautifully on display on the duet “Islands in the Stream.” The song, which was actually written by the Bee Gees, was released in August of 1983 and served as the first single off of Rogers’ album Eyes That See in the Dark.
And yes, it bound to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and will long be considered as one of the best country duets of all time. And now that the world has lost Rogers, it is performances such as these that will truly forever remind us of just what beautiful music sounds like.
5. “9 to 5”
It was 1980 when Parton decided that musical stardom was not enough for a country pistol such as she, so she decided to give movie stardom a try.
And she killed it.
The movie 9 to 5 saw great success at the theaters, but the song “9 to 5” saw even greater success, snagging not only an Academy Award nomination but two Grammy wins. But even more importantly, the song served as an anthem for the office workers in the country, often dealing with some uncomfortable discrimination…discrimination that is luckily not as common these days.
4. “When I Get Where I’m Going” (with Brad Paisley)
In another collaboration with a country great, Parton shined on this 2005 hit “When I Get Where I’m Going,” a song that reminded us that while we will all go to heaven, it will be quite the reunion once we get there.
This idea hit home via the video for the song, which featured a series of people holding up photos of those people they have lost. The song would ultimately give Parton her 25th Billboard number one hit. It also won 2 ACM Awards and a CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year.
Once again, Parton pulled from personal experience when writing her 1973 hit “Jolene.” As the story goes, Parton noticed a bank teller giving her husband Carl Dean some extra attention, and her worries about this woman served as the backbone of this blockbuster song.
And it worked.
“Jolene” ended up being Parton’s second solo number one single, and also saw some crossover success. Chances are that it will forever be considered one of the greatest songs of all time.
2. “Here You Come Again”
While Parton had a hand in writing so many of her biggest hits, “Here You Come Again” was one she didn’t, but it still shines. Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, “Here You Come Again” was released in September of 1977 and served as the title track from Parton’s album of the same name.
It’s sweet melody and lyrical convictions took the song to the number one spot of the country singles chart, and it ended up staying there for five weeks. It also landed Parton a 1979 Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal performance, and served as one of Parton’s first crossover hits.
1. “I Will Always Love You”
If ever there was a song that encapsulated the pure feeling of adoration, it is “I Will Always Love You.” Recorded in 1973and released in 1974, Parton sang the song as a farewell of sorts to her former partner and mentor Porter Wagoner after the two parted ways and Parton decided to go off to pursue a solo career.
Throughout the years, the song has gone up and down the charts from time to time, as it has been featured in a number of different movies such as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and was covered by Whitney Houston as part of the movie The Bodyguard.