8 Songs That Name-Drop Dolly Parton

Is there any celebrity who enjoys as much love from such a wide swath of people as Dolly Parton? Let’s set aside the brilliance she’s displayed over the years as a songwriter. And let’s not even get into how she’s also built an impressive career as an actress in movies and TV. There are also the facts that she always seems to come out on the right side of every issue, and how her philanthropic tendencies have helped way too many folks to count.

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Is it any wonder, then, that songwriters of all stripes have singled out Parton for name-dropping over the years? If we were to list just the songs that Dolly Parton has inspired, we’d need a lot more than just eight entries’ worth of space. So let’s focus instead on eight times that Parton’s actual name has been invoked by artists hoping that a little Dolly magic might just elevate their songs into greatness.

1.“Spokane Motel Blues” by Tom T. Hall (1973)

Hall is a songwriting legend in his own right, and was one of the first to mention Parton in song lyrics. His narrator is stuck in the titular town, and not too pleased about it. But it’s not so much about where he should be, but also what he should be doing and to whom he should be listening. Hall makes it simple how he could improve his situation in a hurry: I wish I had a Dolly Parton tape.

2. “I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven” by Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette (1993)

This old country song is known for allowing performers to improvise around the chorus and drop any names that might be most important to them into the lyrics. In this case, Parton takes the lead on this closing track from the project Honky Tonk Angels, which paired her with fellow legends Lynn and Wynette. Parton saves her own name for last before waking up from the dream.

3. “Shazam!” by Beastie Boys (2004)

This one is a bit of a cheat. In one of the finest songs from the Beasties’ To the 5 Boroughs, they run through their usual laundry list of pop-culture references (Joe Bazooka, Fred Sanford, Crazy Eddie) before Mike D gets the honor of (sort of) leading into a Dolly reference when he raps, I’m a simple man like Chauncey the Gardner. (That’s a call-out to the Peter Sellers film Being There, for those wondering.) And then the trio join forces for Working 9 to 5, Dolly Pardner, even crooning their own off-key version of Parton’s massive movie-inspired smash.

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know Dolly Parton Wrote for Other Artists]

4. “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln” by Josh Turner (2005)

Not only does Turner name-drop Parton in this song, written by Shawn Camp and Mark D. Sanders, he actually inserts Dolly into the song. It turns out she’s the only one who can identify the titular automobile, which she can single out just by the way the headlights are flashing. Dolly eventually exits the song, but it’s quite the cameo appearance.

5. “Southern Voice” by Tim McGraw (2009)

This is probably the most successful song to mention Dolly, as it hit No. 1 on the country charts when McGraw released it on his 2009 album of the same name. Like a few other songs on this list, “Southern Voice,” written by Bob DiPiero and Tom Douglas, mentions Parton among many others who have had a hand in maintaining the integrity of the song title’s subject. Dolly Parton graced it, sings McGraw.

6. “Truth Is” by Maybe April (2019)

This duo (Katy Bishop and Alaina Stacey) is known for the way they mix traditional country with folkier influences. They display a clever twist on this single, in that it mentions a series of clear falsehoods as a way of setting up the key line of the refrain: The truth is, I’m over you. Among the lies the narrator tells to prop up her denial: The grass is blue, the sky is green; Birds swim, fish fly; and Willie Nelson don’t get high. But perhaps the biggest giveaway in the lyrics is when the two harmonize on this line: Dolly Parton’s really mean. Come on, we all know that one’s not true.

7. “Big” by Trace Adkins (2020)

Trace Adkins is one of those country artists who uses his persona as fodder for his songs. And if you’ve ever seen him, you know that he is a sizable guy who, if he wasn’t such a good dude, would make one nervous upon meeting in a dark alley. Adkins plays into this narrative on this track from his 2020 EP, Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy. It’s a lament about the way things used to be, especially in terms of the way everything is getting smaller in modern times. He finds time to play with Parton’s image when he sings the line, There ain’t nothing wrong with the size of Dolly Parton’s…. After some hesitation, he adds the word wig, for all those whose minds might have gone somewhere else.

8. “Dear Dolly” by Ashley Anne (2023)

The fact that this single was released early in 2023 should prove Parton is still a beacon for younger artists who want a great example to follow. Ashley Anne wrote this song alone—and it’s evident that it’s not the result of a committee because of its personal touches. Anne not only name-drops Dolly, but she also sprinkles in references to some of the legend’s greatest songs. But what really hits home is when she talks about the real reasons that she needs help from Parton: Tell me how you did it, tell me how you got through the bad parts of life that challenged you. A touching message to round out this look at Dolly Parton’s unmistakable influences on her musical peers.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ACM

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