Our Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs list takes a long at one of music’s multifaceted artists. She’s a singer, songwriter, actress, author and businesswoman. She’s basically done it all. Parton has sold over 100 million records worldwide. She has several gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums. Parton has 25 songs that reached number one on the country Billboard charts. She has 44 top 10 country albums. She has over 100 singles that charted. Parton has won numerous awards throughout her career. In addition to her music career, she’s an accomplished actress. She has starred in 9 to 5 (1980), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Rhinestone (1984), Steel Magnolias (1989), Straight Talk (1992) and Joyful Noise (2012). Parton also has her own theme park called Dollywood. She’s one of the only artists to have her own theme park. Let’s get to know Dolly Parton a little better.
Dolly Rebecca Parton was born January 19, 1946. She grew up in a large family and they were poor. She got her start by singing in church. She sang on local radio programs when she was a child. After she graduated from high school, she moved to Nashville. She wrote songs with her uncle for other artists. The songs they wrote made it to the charts. When she was signed to Monument Records in 1965, she was originally a bubble gum pop singer. Parton released several singles, but they didn’t make much of an impact on the charts. After she wrote a single for another artist that peaked at number six on the country charts, her label decided to let her record country music.
Dolly Parton released her debut album Hello, I’m Dolly in 1967. The album peaked at number 11 on the country charts. It features the singles “The Little Things,” “Dumb Blonde” and “Something Fishy.” She released a duet album with Porter Wagoner called Just Between You and Me in 1968. It peaked at number eight on the country charts. It features the singles “The Last Thing on My Mind” and “Just Between You and Me.” Parton released another solo album called Just Because I’m a Woman in 1968. It peaked at number 22 on the country charts. It features the single “Just Because I’m a Woman.”
Dolly Parton and Wagoner released another album called Just the Two of Us in 1968. The album peaked at number 5 on the country charts and number 184 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Holding on to Nothin’,” “We’ll Get Ahead Someday” and “Jenny’s Afraid of the Dark.” Parton’s next solo album In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad) was released in 1969. The album peaked at number 15 on the country charts. It features the single “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad).” Parton and Wagoner released Always, Always in 1969. The album peaked at number five on the country charts and number 162 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Yours Love” and “Always, Always.” Parton and Wagoner would go on to release several more duet albums.
Dolly Parton released My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy in 1969. It peaked at number six on the country charts and at number 194 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Daddy,” “In the Ghetto” and “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy.” The hitmaker released The Fairest of Them All in 1970. The album peaked at number 13 on the country charts. It features the single “Daddy Come and Get Me.” The Golden Streets of Glory was released in 1971. It peaked at number 22 on the country charts. It features the songs “Wings of a Dove,” “I Believe” and “The Seeker.” Joshua was released in 1971. The album peaked at number 16 on the country charts and number 198 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the single “Joshua.”
Coat of Many Colors was released in 1971. The album peaked at number seven on the country charts. It features the singles “My Blue Tears” and “Coat of Many Colors.” Touch Your Woman was released in 1972. It peaked at number 19 on the country charts. It features the single “Touch Your Woman.” My Tennessee Mountain Home came out in 1973. It features the single “My Tennessee Mountain Home.” The album wasn’t a commercial hit for Parton.
She released Bubbling Over in 1973. It peaked at number 14 on the country music charts. It features the single “Traveling Man.” Jolene was released in 1974. It peaked at number six on the country charts. It features the singles “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You.” Love Is Like a Butterfly was also released in 1974. It peaked at number seven on the country charts. The album features the single “Love Is Like a Butterfly.”
The Bargain Store came out in 1975. It features the singles “The Bargain Store” and “Country Gambler.” Parton released Dolly in 1975. The album peaked at number 14 on the country charts. It features the singles “The Seeker” and “We Used To.” All I Can Do came out in 1976. The album peaked at number three on the country charts. It features the singles “Hey, Lucky Lady,” “All I Can Do” and “Shattered Image.”
New Harvest…First Gathering was released in 1977. It peaked at number one on the country charts and number 71 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” “You Are,” “Applejack” and “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher.” Here You Come Again was released in 1977. The album peaked at number one on the country charts and number 20 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Here You Come Again,” “Two Doors Down,” “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” and “Me and Little Andy.”
She released Heartbreaker in 1978. It peaked at number one on the country charts and number 27 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “Heartbreaker,” “It’s Too Late to Love Me Now,” “Baby I’m Burnin’” and “I Really Got the Feeling.” Great Balls of Fire was released in 1979. The album peaked at number four on the country charts and number 40 on the Billboard 200 charts. It features the singles “You’re the Only One,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Sweet Summer Lovin’” and “Star of the Show.”
Dolly, Dolly, Dolly came out in 1980. It peaked at number seven on the country charts. The album features the singles “Starting Over Again” and “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You.” 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs was released in 1980. The album peaked at number one on the country charts and number 11 on the Billboard 200 charts. The album was number one for 10 consecutive weeks on the country charts. It features the singles “9 to 5,” “But You Know I Love You” and “The House of the Rising Sun.” Parton released several more albums throughout the years.
Dolly Parton has a long career in music. She has released several solo albums as well as duet albums. She paved the way for several female country singers. She achieved crossover appeal because she was successful in country and pop music. She’s also achieved success in Hollywood with movies on the big screen as well as on the small screen. Compiling a list of just 10 songs was a challenge because Parton has so many hit singles. This Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs list will feature some of her best songs.
# 10 – Joshua
The first song on our Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs list is “Joshua” from the album of the same name. The song has a country beat. The unique song tells the story about a young woman who goes to visit a recluse who is known for being a nasty person. This is a different type of song. Most artists sing love songs, but this one is different and original. Parton’s storytelling on this track was pure genius. There aren’t too many people who could have written a song like this and been able to get away with it. The song has a hard driving country beat.
The song features the guitar, bass, cello, and drums. There’s no mistaking that this is a traditional country song. It’s perfect for dancing. The musical arrangement of the song sounds similar to country singer Johnny Cash’s music. She sounds pretty good on the track. She speeds through the lyrics as if she’s rapping in it. She shows control because she does it without taking a breath. She holds little notes towards the end of the song. Her voice is pleasant on the ear.
# 9 – The Bargain Store
The next song on our Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs list is ”The Bargain Store” from the album of the same name. It has a country sound. The metaphoric song is about a woman who is emotionally destroyed by a bad relationship. The song is controversial because people thought it was glorifying prostitution. Radio stations didn’t want to play the song because the lyrics were sexual in nature. Parton proved that she didn’t want to play it safe. She wanted to talk about something serious. The song is relevant because people do deal with emotional abuse in relationships. She was risqué enough to take the chance and discuss a hot topic like this one.
The arrangement has a somber beat to match the serious subject. It doesn’t sound like a traditional country song. It sounds like it could almost crossover to adult contemporary music. The guitar riffs give the song a country feel, but the rest of the instrumentation makes it sound like a cross between country and adult contemporary music. She wears her heart on her sleeve as she passionately describes the woman who is dealing with abuse. She does an excellent job on the track.
# 8 – Starting Over Again
The anthemic song is from the Dolly, Dolly, Dolly album. It has a country sound. The heartbreaking song is about a couple who decide to separate after several years of marriage. Here is some trivia about the song. The song was written by disco queen Donna Summer and her husband Bruce Sudano. The song is based on his parents’ marriage. The track has a slow start and builds to a climactic finish. It doesn’t sound like anything else Dolly Parton has recorded. It has crossover appeal. The music sounds like a cross between pop and adult contemporary music. The music will touch your heart as you listen to the soothing piano chords. The violin will also make the listeners emotional. Parton’s vocals are extraordinary. She pours her heart out as she’s telling the story of a marriage coming to an end. She sings the song as if she went through the problem personally. She was married at the time she recorded the song, but she was able to convincingly sing a song about a couple separating. She showed outstanding range on this track. She turned it into a power ballad towards the end of it.
# 7 – Heartbreaker
The breakup song is from the album of the same name. It has a country and pop sound. The angry song is about a man breaking a woman’s heart. She wanted to start singing pop music so this is one of her introductions to the pop world. The song has slick and shiny pop production. It’s easy to forget this is a country ballad. The guitar riffs give the song a country edge. The rest of the music gives the song a pop feel. The music is moving and refreshing. It’s stripped down to an acoustic song to focus on her pretty vocals.
The lyrics are relevant today because many people have been in relationships like this one. Most artists sing songs about this subject, but she made it sound fresh. It’s easy to get lost in the music and her vocals. She starts the song off softly as she talks about the pain she feels about losing a love. Her phrasing is flawless on the track. She sings every lyric in time with the beat. She doesn’t belt in the song, but she doesn’t need it to make the song work. The song is about heartbreak, but her vocals are tender and pure.
# 6 – Here You Come Again
The captivating song on our Dolly Parton songs list is from the album of the same name. The track has a country and pop beat. The sentimental song is about not being able to get over someone. This is a relatable story because people have been in love and had trouble getting over it. The song was her first crossover hit. It was just as big a hit on the pop charts as it was on the country charts. Here is some trivia about the song. The song was originally a pop track, but Parton wanted it to have a country sound. She wanted new fans, but didn’t want to alienate her country fans by changing her style all together. The producer gave her what she wanted and added a steel guitarist to the song.
This was a good choice because it made the song have her style while creating a new one for her. The music begins with pounding piano chords that will send chills up and down your spine. The steely guitar gives the song the country sound she wanted. It starts off slowly and picks up the tempo after the first chorus. Her southern charm shines brightly in the song. It’s hard not to smile while listening to her sing this song. The chorus is memorable and will stay in your head after she’s finished singing it.
# 5 – Love Is Like a Butterfly
The next song on our Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs list is “Love Is Like a Butterfly” from the album of the same name. The track has a country beat to it. It’s a poetic song about falling in love for the first time. Parton wrote the metaphoric lyrics to describe how it feels to fall in love. People of different ages could appreciate this song. The subject matter has been done before, but no one has compared being in love to a butterfly. It goes to show how creative Dolly Parton is when it concerns songwriting.
She is a truly gifted songwriter and knows how to tell a creative story. The music sounds like a cross between country and folk music. The music is light and breezy like a spring day. The song is stripped because it sounds like it’s just the piano and the guitar. This was a wise choice because it didn’t need too much instrumentation. The music doesn’t overpower her vocals. She sings the song softly so she didn’t need too much music backing her. She’s laidback vocally on the song.
# 4 – Jolene
The cautionary song is from the album of the same name. The song has a country sound. The aggressive song is about a woman who flirts with her man. Parton’s determined to keep the woman from flirting with her husband. Here is some trivia about the song. She wrote the song about a woman who flirted with her husband and she wanted to stop it from happening. She insisted that there’s no woman named “Jolene.” She came up with the name from meeting a fan. This song was written decades ago, but it can still resonate today. People still deal with other people flirting with their significant others today. This song can still be appreciated today.
The music is energetic despite the subject matter. It has enough tempo to make you get up and dance. It has the traditional country sound with a blend of rock music. The guitar riffs are fire. Parton sounds sassy on this track. She wants the woman to know what would happen to her if she takes her man from her. She manages not to sound desperate as she pleads with “Jolene” not to take her man. Dolly Parton uses a double in the chorus. She uses vibrato throughout the song. She doesn’t overdo the vibrato in it. She manages to do it just enough to make it work.
# 3 – I Will Always Love You
The emotional song is from the Jolene album. It has a country beat. The sentimental song is about the end of her professional relationship with Porter Wagoner. It’s easy to forget Dolly Parton originally recorded this song. It’s become synonymous with Whitney Houston, but Parton also had a number one hit with the song. Parton’s version has a country sound while Houston’s has a pop sound to it. The music is moving and emotional. The slow and melodic beat makes it easy to get lost in the melody of the song.
The song is touching and beautiful. It will make the listeners feel emotion while listening to it. Parton’s voice is tender and sweet in the song. It’s easy to tell this song hits close to home for her. She is practically telling someone goodbye in this song. She doesn’t do the same vocal gymnastics as Whitney Houston, but she does utilize some runs in the song. She holds little notes towards the end of the track. She doesn’t have the same power in her voice as Houston, but she does a fantastic job with the song. People who haven’t heard Parton’s version first may not appreciate the simplicity of song because they are used to Houston’s version. Both versions of the song are beautiful and deserve a listen.
# 2 – 9 to 5
The anthemic song is from the 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs album. It has a country and pop sound to it. This bouncy song is from the movie of the same name. It has an inspirational feel to it as she sings about working hard. This relatable song still holds true today. It is an old school song that doesn’t sound dated at all. It can be appreciated today. Anyone who has to deal with people stealing your work and not giving you credit can relate to this song. The energetic beat is guaranteed to get you out of your seat. We dare you to sit still while this song is playing. It definitely has crossover appeal. It doesn’t sound like tradition country music. Parton sings this women’s anthem with so much passion. She kills the slinky chorus. The catchy and infectious chorus will stay in your head long after it’s done. This fantastic song could have made it to number one on our list if it weren’t for the one we picked.
# 1 – Islands in the Stream
The number one song on our Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs list is “Islands in the Stream” from Kenny Rogers’ Eyes That See in the Dark album. It has a country, soft rock and pop sound to it. The loving song is about a couple who are in love with each other. They decide to stay together no matter what happens. Here is some trivia about the song. The Bee Gees originally wrote this song for Marvin Gaye. He turned down the song and Rogers was given the track to sing. Barry Gibb wanted Dolly Parton to sing the song as a duet with Rogers.
The decision was a good one because they did a superb job together. This is one of the best country duets of all time. The musical arrangement is fabulous because it compliments both of their voices. His deep, velvet vocals were a perfect compliment to her soprano vocals. Their voices blend well together. They give each other the room to shine on the song. Some duos tend to out sing the other, but Rogers and Parton were good to each other. They recorded a duet album because they worked so well together. Everything about the song works. It’s absolutely flawless. The infectious song will remain in your head even when it’s done. It deserves the number one spot on our list.
Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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