Dolly Parton’s Iconic Hit “Jolene” Named the Best Country Song of All Time by ‘Rolling Stone’

Last Friday (May 24), Rolling Stone released their list of the 200 best country songs of all time. As one would expect, it was full of cuts from some of the biggest names in the history of the genre. Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Webb Pierce, and many more showed up in the top half of the collection. Parton’s iconic “Jolene” came in first.

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Parton recorded “Jolene” in May 1973 and released it in October of the same year. It went on to be her second No. 1 single. However, the song is much more important than its chart performance. More than five decades after its release, it is almost universally loved. Much like Parton, one doesn’t have to be a fan of country music to love “Jolene.” After all, it has been covered by countless artists in a variety of genres.

[RELATED: Dolly Parton Recorded Her Iconic No. 1 Hit “Jolene” on This Day in 1973]

“Jolene” is among a few songs in Parton’s catalog that transcend the country genre and pull in listeners from diverse walks of life. As a result, it is arguably part of the reason that she became the icon she is today. With this song, she tapped into a nearly universal part of the human condition, proving her strength as a songwriter.

Dolly Parton on the Origins of Jolene

Dolly Parton drew inspiration for the iconic hit from two very different sources—a redheaded bank teller and a young fan with a unique name.

Parton recalled the bank teller in an interview with NPR. “She got this terrible crush on my husband. And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention,” she recalled. “It was kinda like a running joke between us—when I was saying, ‘Hell, you’re spending a lot of time at the bank. I don’t think we’ve got that kind of money.’ So it’s really an innocent song all around, but sounds like a dreadful one,” she added.

In a TikTok video, Parton shared where she got the name that became the title of the song. “I did get that name from a little girl that I was signing autographs for. I had never heard that name before. I remember signing the name Jolene and I was like ‘That’s a beautiful name. I’m gonna write a song about that,’” she recalled. Parton explained that she wrote the chorus by repeating the name to herself so she wouldn’t forget it.

Featured image by GC Images/GC Images

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