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Dolly Parton: The Soundtrack of My Life

The indefatigable country icon, 68, who just released her 42nd album, ”Blue Smoke,” talks about crushing on the Beatles and Cat Stevens, crying to George Jones, and putting a Pentecostal spin on Bon Jovi

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The First Song I Was Obsessed
With The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I loved all kinds of songs, and I grew up singin’ all sorts of songs, but the first time I ever remember totally being jarred and feelin’ all kinds of emotions was when that song came out. I couldn’t get enough of it. This girlfriend of ours had an old trap car, so we used to ride around — she was a little older than us. I just remember us hearing that on the radio any time we had a chance — because they played it night and day when the Beatles first came on the scene.

The Song That Reminds Me Of My First Kiss
[Laughs] That would probably be “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” too, ’cause that was when I was beginnin’ to date a little bit.

The First Album I Bought With My Own Money
First of all, I had no money. But after I moved to Nashville, Otis Redding was a favorite artist and I remember buying his album. My husband and I used to listen to his music when we were datin’. His voice always moved me: “These Arms of Mine” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”

The First Song I Performed In Public
There were two that were my specialty: “Tall Men,” that Rose Maddox used to do, and then a George Jones song that came out in 1956. I was 10 years old, and I was singing “You Gotta Be My Baby.” Every time I would sing it in front of an audience, I would get an encore and have to sing it again.

The Song That Makes Me Cry
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” always makes me cry. George Jones has moved me as much if not more than any other singer. When my mom passed away, it was several months before I could really sing “Coat of Many Colors” without cryin’. The song “Miss You-Miss Me” [on Blue Smoke] brought a tear to my eye when I wrote it — and every time I sing it. That I wrote because I have a niece that’s going through a divorce. She and her husband are not gettin’ along, and the little child is always torn between ’em. I just felt for the child so much. I don’t think “Miss You-Miss Me” would be a hit on stage, especially not in the casinos, where they don’t want people sad. People are drinkin’, most of ’em probably where they shouldn’t be anyhow, and I start singin’ about the kids they left behind, or the woman they left behind — they’d probably kick my ass out of the casino. [Laughs]

The Music I Like To Play Before I Go Out On Stage
Usually when I get ready for a show, I’m more apt to pray or do my little affirmations, just asking God to let me shine and radiate with his light and to let me be a blessin’.

The Song I Wish I’d Written
“Sometimes When We Touch,” by Dan Hill and Barry Mann, who wrote my hit “Here You Come Again” with Cynthia Weil. That one moves me a great deal.

The Cover Song That Might Surprise You Bon Jovi ‘s “Lay Your Hands on Me” [on Smoke]. I always loved the song, but the first time I heard it — because I grew up in a Pentecostal church, where people believed in healing hands and laying your hands on someone — I just thought, “Wow, that would make a fantastic gospel song.” Jon wrote a real nice note that he loved the way it turned out.

The Song I’d Still Like To Cover
I always wanted to do “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” so I might tackle that one on my next album. [Laughs] I always thought that would make a great bluegrassy cover.

The Artist People Might Not Expect Me To Love
I was a fool over Cat Stevens as a writer, and for his style and his singin’. I still have every album that he ever did, and I still listen to them now and then.

The Music I Want Played At My Funeral
I’m sure they’ll be playing “I Will Always Love You” when I die, just like they did with Whitney Houston. When they picked her coffin up and started in on that song, I started to cry, and I thought, “Oh my Lord.” That’s when it hit me that she was really gone. But there’s a song called “If We Never Meet Again.” It’s an old country-gospel church song that talks about if we never meet again this side of heaven, I will meet you on that beautiful shore. “Where the charming roses bloom forever and where separations come no more.” That was my daddy’s favorite. We did sing it at his funeral, and I would like it to be sung at mine.

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