Why Dolly Parton Writes

Dolly Parton writes every day.

Sometimes it’s a song. Sometimes it’s an idea. But she says she can’t think without a yellow legal pad and a pen nearby.

She has written over 3,000 songs. There are well-known ones – “I Will Always Love You,” “9 to 5,” “Jolene.” And not well-known ones – she’s written plenty that’s mediocre, she once said without shame.

And still, Ms. Parton puts pen to paper daily. Because, as she told American Songwriter back in 1990, songwriting is how she speaks for herself, how she speaks for this life as she sees it.

In fact, if she could only do one thing, it would be songwriting, she says. She loves going on a big writing binge and “creating something that was never in the world before.”

Now, a lot of her songs cover pretty typical country fare: heartbreak, heartache, been done wrong, done wrong, all things that speak to some part of her experience living and breathing in the world.

Sure, she’ll say, a lot of this subject matter has been done before. It’s been written about, sung about, told about since forever. And then she adds:

“But it ain’t been told through my point of view.”

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