Writer(s): Dolly Parton (see lyrics here)
Released: October 15, 1973
First Charted: November 3, 1973
Peak: 60 US, 44 AC, 11 CW, 7 UK, 84 CN, 99 AU, 5 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 1.2 UK, 3.41 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 109.70 video, 443.22 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Dolly Parton was born in Tennessee in 1946. In the early part of her career, she often dueted with Porter Wagoner. However, her first #1 song on the country charts was the solo effort “Joshua” in 1970. She would get back to the top again with another “name” song in 1974 with “Jolene.” Parton has said it is her most covered song. WK She would go on to top the country charts 25 times.
“Jolene” was Parton’s first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. She said, “I’m glad to be getting some pop action…but I’m country and always will be.” TR It only got to #60, but she had more pop success in her future with the #3 song “Here You Come Again” and the #1 songs “9 to 5” and “Islands in the Stream,” a duet with Kenny Rogers. Of course, Whitney Houston’s cover of Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You” would become one of the biggest #1 songs in chart history in 1992.
There was a real-life Jolene, although she was a pre-teen fan and not “a husband-stealing beauty” TR like the Jolene in the song. There are conflicting stories about the girl. In one version, the girl gave Dolly a photo of herself in a Girl Scout uniform with “Love, Jolene” written on the back. Dolly had never heard the name before and it kept coming back to her. TR
In another account, Dolly said the fan approached her for an autograph. Parton said, “she had this beautiful red hair, this beautiful skin, these beautiful green eyes…I said, ‘Well you’re the prettiest little thing I ever saw. So what is your name?’” SF When she said, “Jolene,” Parton responded, “That is pretty. That sounds like a song. I’m going to write a song about that.” SF
She did. While she used the name of the fan, she wrote the song about another real-life woman. Soon after Dolly and her husband, Carl Dean, were married, a red-headed clerk at the local bank flirted with him. WK Dolly dreamed up the song lyric, asking her not to take her man just because she can.
First posted 11/6/2022; last updated 12/27/2022.