Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs
Dolly Parton songs are some of the most beloved of the last 40 years of country music. Parton has built one of the biggest careers in country music on the strength of hits in a wide variety of styles, keeping up with the trends and changes in country over the years, but never losing sight of her core appeal.
Parton is particularly notable among female artists, as she wrote most of her biggest hits herself. She has also demonstrated the ability to hunt down and record outside material that perfectly suits her abilities, further widening her appeal. Our list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs includes songs from all facets of her record-breaking career.
“Why’d You Come in Here Looking Like That”
We kick off our list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs with a hit that Parton actually didn’t write. Bob Carlisle and Randy Thomas wrote “Why’d You Come in Here Looking Like That,” which Parton released as the first single from White Limozeen. The up-tempo-fun song about being instantly smitten by a good-looking man spent 13 weeks on the country charts, and became Parton’s 18th No. 1 hit.
“But You Know I Love You”
“But You Know I Love You” had been around the block twice before Parton recorded the song. Written by Mike Settle from Kenny Rogers‘ early group the First Edition, the song first became a pop hit for them in 1969. Bill Anderson took the song to No. 2 in the country charts that same year. But it is Parton’s plaintive, wistful rendition from 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs that is the definitive version of the song, reaching No. 1 in 1981.
“It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”
Parton was headed into the peak of her career when she released “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” in 1977. The song was part of a double A-side with “Two Doors Down,” and both songs became hits at the same time — ‘”wo Doors Down” was a Top 20 pop hit, while “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” became Parton’s eighth No. 1 country hit. She later admitted she was surprised that country radio embraced the song because of its frank lyric about casual sex: “Hello, are you free tonight / I like your looks, I love your smile / Could I use you for a while / It’s all wrong, but it’s all right.”
“Two Doors Down”
The flip side of “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” was “Two Doors Down,” which Parton wrote while she was staying by herself in a hotel, when she heard the sound of laughter and fun coming from another room. Before Parton could release her version as the second single from Here You Come Again, Zella Lehr’s version became a Top 10 country hit. Parton re-recorded the track with a pop-disco flair for the single, which she then released to pop stations, giving her an enormous crossover hit that has remained a fan favorite.
“Here You Come Again”
“Here You Come Again” is another great example of an outside song that Parton made her own. Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the song was the title track and first single from her 1977 album. Released in multiple formats, the song reached No. 1 on the country charts, and reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100, giving Parton her first major crossover success. “Here You Come Again” also won Parton a 1979 Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
“Islands in the Stream”
Parton scored one of the biggest crossover successes of her career with this disco-flavored track from 1983. Written by the Bee Gees for Kenny Rogers for his album Eyes That See in the Dark, which featured nothing but songs from the Gibb brothers, the duet became a worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in many countries. In America it topped the country, pop and adult contemporary charts, and Rogers and Parton would subsequently work together on many other songs and TV projects.
Parton scored one of her early solo hits with “Jolene,” which was inspired by a real-life event. Parton has said that she wrote the jealousy-fueled lyric after a tall, red-haired woman at a bank started flirting with her husband, and he started making more frequent trips to the bank as a result. The title came from a little girl who asked for her autograph at a concert whose name was Jolene. Released as the first single from the album of the same name, “Jolene” reached No. 1 in the country charts, and was also a minor pop and adult contemporary hit.
“Coat of Many Colors”
This is another Parton song taken from her real life. When she was growing up in relative poverty, her mother once sewed Parton a coat from a number of rags that had been given to the family, and as she sewed she told Parton the Bible story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. But when she wore it to school, she was mocked by the other children, who couldn’t understand why it was special to her. The actual coat now resides in the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood. Parton has often called “Coat of Many Colors” her personal favorite of all of her songs.
“9 to 5″
In 1980, Parton made the transition to the silver screen in the comedy 9 to 5, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. She also wrote the film’s title song, which became a smash hit anthem for working people upon its release. The song’s unique production, featuring typewriters and other office sounds setting the beat, helped it reach No. 1 on both the country and pop charts. 9 to 5 also garnered Parton an Academy Award nomination, and she won Grammys in the categories of Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance, Female.
“I Will Always Love You”
What other song could possibly top the list of the Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs? Written about Parton’s professional breakup with Porter Wagoner, who had been her mentor for many years, the song first reached No. 1 in 1974, then again in a re-recorded version in 1982 from the film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In 1992 Whitney Houston recorded a stunning version for her film ‘The Bodyguard,’ which hit No. 1 on the pop charts and became one of the best-selling singles of all time. Parton and Vince Gill took the song to No. 15 as a duet in 1995, which also earned them a CMA award for Vocal Event of the Year.