Jolene (song)

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Dolly jolene single cover.jpg
Single by Dolly Parton
from the album Jolene
B-side"Love, You're So Beautiful Tonight"
ReleasedOctober 15, 1973
Format7" single
RecordedMay 22, 1973
StudioRCA Studio B (Nashville)
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Dolly Parton
Producer(s)Bob Ferguson
Dolly Parton singles chronology
"Traveling Man"
"I Will Always Love You"
Music video
"Jolene" (audio) on YouTube

"Jolene" is a song written and performed by American country music artist Dolly Parton. It was released on October 15, 1973 as the first single and title track from her album of the same name, produced by Bob Ferguson.

Cultural status[edit]

The song was ranked No. 217 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2004.[1] According to Parton, "Jolene" is the song most recorded by other artists of all the songs she has written.[2]

"Jolene" was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (first for the original release and the following year for a live version). Despite not winning, the song eventually earned Parton a Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance 43 years after its original release, for a cover by the a capella group Pentatonix in which she was also featured.[3]

In the film The Intervention (Clea Duvall; 2016), Annie (Melanie Lynskey) tells Lola (Alia Shawkat), "Nobody likes a Jolene," after the younger woman stirs up trouble among a group of older couples by making a play for several individuals among them.

A sign of the international extent of the song's popularity appeared during the Covid-19 pandemic when the New Zealand government put the country in lockdown. A newspaper summary of "essential things to know" explained that washing one's hands with soap should take "as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice or the chorus of Dolly Parton's hit song Jolene."[4]


The song tells of Parton confronting Jolene, a stunningly beautiful woman, who she worries will steal away her lover/husband. Throughout the song, Parton implores Jolene "please, don't take him just because you can." The song is unclear about whether or not Jolene intends to steal Parton's lover, an ambiguity that has been addressed in several answer songs. Onstage in 1988, Dolly told the audience "Jolene" was a true story and the reason she did not like to sing it too often.[5]

In 2019, the podcast Dolly Parton's America had an episode addressing the question of whether the narrator's focus on Jolene's beauty and desirability is indicative of her own romantic longings. A musicologist wrote and performed a fourth verse which makes this interpretation explicit; when the podcast's hosts played audio of this performance for Parton, she responded that this was "another take on it".[6]


According to Parton, the song was inspired by a red-headed bank clerk who flirted with her husband Carl Dean at his local bank branch around the time they were newly married. In an interview, she also revealed that Jolene's name and appearance are based on that of a young fan who came on stage for her autograph.[2][7]

The song became Parton's second solo number-one single on the country charts after being released as a single in October 1973 (prior to the album's release). It reached the top position in February 1974; it was also a moderate pop hit for her and a minor adult contemporary chart entry. As of December 2019, the song had sold 935,000 digital copies in the US since it became available for digital download.[8]

The song was released as a single later in the UK, and became Parton's first top ten hit song in the country, reaching number seven in the UK Singles Chart in 1976.[9] The song also re-entered the chart when Parton performed at the Glastonbury festival in 2014. The song has sold 255,300 digital copies in the UK as of January 2017.[9]

The thumb-picked guitar on the recording is by Chip Young.[10]

Charts and certifications[edit]

The White Stripes version[edit]

"Jolene (Live Under Blackpool Lights)"
Jolene (under blackpool light).jpg
Single by The White Stripes
from the album Under Blackpool Lights
ReleasedNovember 20, 2004
Songwriter(s)Dolly Parton
Producer(s)Jack White
The White Stripes singles chronology
"There's No Home for You Here"
"Jolene (Live Under Blackpool Lights)"
"Blue Orchid"

"Jolene (Live Under Blackpool Lights)" was released as a live single by American garage rock band The White Stripes. The single reached No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart in November 2004 and also reached No. 12 in Norway and No. 28 in Flemish Belgium. The White Stripes previously released a studio version of "Jolene", as the B-side to their 2000 single of "Hello Operator", from the album De Stijl. In Australia, the song was ranked No. 10 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2004. Another live performance of the song is featured on the 2010 live album Under Great White Northern Lights. The White Stripes' version was voted one of the greatest live covers by readers of Rolling Stone magazine.[27]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Jolene (Live Under Blackpool Lights)"
  2. "Black Math (Live Under Blackpool Lights)" (only on CD version)
  3. "Do (Live Under Blackpool Lights)" (only on vinyl flip side)


Chart (2004–2005) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[28] 28
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[29] 12
Ireland (IRMA)[30] 42
Norway (VG-lista)[31] 12
Poland (LP3)[32] 2
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[33] 16
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[34] 55
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[35] 16
UK Indie (Official Charts Company)[36] 1

Pentatonix version[edit]

Single by Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton
from the album PTX, Vol. IV - Classics
ReleasedSeptember 16, 2016
Songwriter(s)Dolly Parton
Pentatonix singles chronology
"If I Ain't Got You"
Dolly Parton singles chronology
"Forever Country"
"Head Over High Heels"

In September 2016, the American a cappella group Pentatonix released a cover of the song with Dolly Parton herself as feature artist.[37] The cover won the Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.


Chart (2016) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[38] 92
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[39] 84
New Zealand Heatseekers (Recorded Music NZ)[40] 5
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[41] 93
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[42] 1
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[43] 18

Other cover versions[edit]

  • Olivia Newton-John recorded a faster tempo cover of the song on her 1976 album Come On Over
  • The Sisters of Mercy recorded a version of the song for BBC Radio One on March 10, 1983 hosted by David Jensen and continued to perform the song live until 2001.
  • Persian artist Leila Forouhar covered this song by the name "Jolin" for her 1994 album "Do Parandeh" (Two Birds).
  • Sherrié Austin's version of "Jolene" is the second track on her 2001 album Followin' A Feeling. It was released as a single, and peaked at #55 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in April 2001.[44]
  • Mindy Smith covered "Jolene" in 2003, both for her debut album One Moment More and the Dolly Parton tribute album Just Because I'm a Woman. Parton described this cover as her favorite version of the song.[2] The version with Mindy Smith was performed on stage with Dolly Parton, who is also featured in the official music video.
  • Sophie Ellis-Bextor: British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor covered the song in 2008, and it was used on the BBC series Beautiful People.
  • In 2012, Miley Cyrus (Parton's goddaughter) performed a version in a "Backyard Sessions" video found on Cyrus' official website which gained some attention.[45]
  • In 2003, as part of an episode of CMT Crossroads, the song was performed as a duet by Parton and Melissa Etheridge, with Etheridge taking lead vocals.
  • In 2007, Jolene was featured on an episode of American Dad.
  • The song was parodied by Australian satirical comedy show The Chaser's War on Everything. The title was altered to "Pauline" in a reference to former One Nation Party leader Pauline Hanson.
  • In 2008, Icelandic artist Lay Low covered this song for the Ökutímar soundtrack. She later recorded a live version for her 2012 album Live at Home.
  • In 2010, Parton's original version was featured and performed by Jessica Lowndes as Adrianna Tate-Duncan in the 90210 episode "What's Past is Prologue".
  • In 2011, John Mayer, Keith Urban, and Norah Jones performed the song at the Grammy Awards as a tribute to Dolly Parton.
  • In 2011, the television series Glee featured a cover of the song by Dot-Marie Jones in the episode I Kissed a Girl.[46] It was included on the album Glee: The Music, The Complete Season Three.
  • In 2013, Straight No Chaser, an a cappella group from Indiana, covered this song (with featured vocalist Dolly Parton herself) on their 2013 album Under the Influence.[47]
  • In 2013, YouTube user goodlittlebuddy's slowed-down version of "Jolene" rose to internet fame. The song was played at 33RPM instead of 45RPM, which represents a 25% slow down from the original. This version was featured during season one of the NBC television series The Blacklist.
  • In March 2015, the song was parodied in the 101st episode of Community by changing the lyrics from "Jolene" to "Gay dean".
  • In 2016, Composer and music producer Bryce Jacobs created a darker cinematic version of the song. Jacobs took a unique slant on the lyrics, written from the perspective of the man begging Jolene not seduce him because he knows she'll succeed and he'll ruin his own life in the process.
  • In September 2017, satirist Roy Zimmerman recorded a parody entitled "Joel Osteen", criticizing Joel Osteen for his delay in offering shelter to Hurricane Harvey victims.
  • In November 2018, drag queen Willam Belli released a parody called "Aileen", inspired by the serial killer Aileen Wuornos.
  • In May 2019, Rip debuted his version of "Jolene" on the Grand stage at The World's Largest Brat Fest[48]
  • In May 2019, Leo Moracchioli released a metal cover on his YouTube channel.
  • In May 2020, Becky G and Chiquis released a spanish cover of the song. Dolly Parton officially approved the translation for this version which was prepared by up and coming songwriter Ilka Rodriguez Cortés.

Answer songs[edit]

Kirsty Maccoll's 1994 single "Caroline" is in-spirit response song to "Jolene", in which the Jolene character grieves the loss of her best friend (the titular Caroline) after having an affair with Caroline's husband.

In 2011, Estonian indie rock band Ewert and the Two Dragons released an answer song, also titled "Jolene", in response to the original recording. In this version, Parton's "man" directly addresses Jolene, telling her that nothing will ever happen between them and that his current lover would fight to get him back.

In 2012, Canadian indie rock band Hey Ocean! released a song titled "Jolene". The song borrows from Parton's by singing part of the chorus and then dismissing it by saying "But it ain't nothing but her favorite country song."

In 2013, country singer Jennifer Nettles recorded "That Girl", which she stated in interviews should be subtitled "The Ballad of Jolene". The song is written from the perspective of the Jolene character, who Nettle feels is unfairly maligned in the original song. In this version, the other woman is shown to have no interest in taking another woman's man, and her song is in fact framed as a warning to Parton's character that "her man" has a roving eye. The concept of Dolly Parton suffering from paranoia regarding Jolene was also discussed in S01 E03 of musical comedy podcast JimBob's Music Massacre in February 2018.

In 2013, The Beautiful South guitarist David Rotheray recorded an album of answer songs, among which is "Jolene's Song", performed by Julie Murphy. This version of Jolene is equally heartbroken to learn that the man who loves her belongs to another woman and expresses her pain at being painted as a heartless temptress by the original song.

In 2017, American singer-songwriter Cam released her single "Diane" in response to Parton's song. The song is sung from Jolene's point of view, where she sings to 'Diane', Parton's character, and states that she did not know that 'her man' was her man. Cam noted to Rolling Stone Country that the song is her "response to Dolly Parton's 'Jolene.' It's the apology so many spouses deserve, but never get. The other woman is coming forward to break the news to the wife about an affair, respecting her enough to have that hard conversation, once she realized he was married. Because everyone should be able to decide their own path in life, based on the truth. Women especially should do this for each other, since our self-worth can still be so wrapped up in our partners. And in true country fashion, I've set the whole raw story to upbeat music, so you can dance while you process it all."[49]

The protagonist of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, Jolyne Cujoh, is named after the song.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004-12-09.
  2. ^ a b c "Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' Still Haunts Singers". NPR. October 9, 2008.
  3. ^ "Dolly Parton and Pentatonix win country duo/roup performance award for 'Jolene'". Los Angeles Times. Randall Roberts. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  4. ^ "NZ going into lockdown: 10 essential things you need to know about Covid-19". Noted. 25 Mar 2020. Retrieved 25 Mar 2020.
  5. ^ YouTube, live January 10, 1988; published January 31, 2011; retrieved May 17, 2020
  6. ^ Dolly Parton's America: The Only One For Me, Jolene, at WNYC; published November 19, 2019; retrieved January 17, 2020
  7. ^ Simon Usborne (July 1, 2014). "Glastonbury 2014: So who's Jolene?". The Independent.
  8. ^ a b Bjorke, Matt (December 8, 2019). "Top 30 Digital Country Tracks - Pure Sales: December 9, 2019". Rough Stock. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Copsey, Rob (19 January 2017). "Happy Birthday Dolly Parton! Her most downloaded songs in the UK revealed". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  10. ^ Gold, Adam (December 22, 2014). "Chip Young, Legendary Nashville Session Guitarist and Producer, Dies at 76". Nashville Scene.
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 21, No. 3, March 02 1974". RPM. Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Adult Contemporary - Volume 21, No. 2, February 23, 1974". RPM. Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Country Singles - Volume 21, No. 1, February 16, 1974". RPM. Archived from the original on 23 March 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  15. ^ " – Dolly Parton – Jolene". Tracklisten.
  16. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 6 April 1974
  17. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  18. ^ " – Dolly Parton – Jolene". Singles Top 100.
  19. ^ "Dolly Parton Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  20. ^ "Chart Search Results - Adult Contemporary 1974-02-23". Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  21. ^ "Dolly Parton Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  22. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Jolene". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  24. ^ "Cerificeringer" (in Danish). IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  25. ^ "British single certifications – Dolly Parton – Jolene". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Jolene in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  26. ^ "American single certifications – Dolly Parton – Jolene". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  27. ^ "Readers' Poll: The Greatest Live Cover Songs". Rolling Stone.
  28. ^ " – The White Stripes – Jolene" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  29. ^ " – The White Stripes – Jolene" (in French). Ultratip. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  30. ^ " – Discography The White Stripes". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  31. ^ " – The White Stripes – Jolene". VG-lista. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  32. ^ "Notowanie nr1216" (in Polish). LP3. 20 May 2005. Retrieved March 10, 2019. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  33. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  34. ^ " – The White Stripes – Jolene". Singles Top 100. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  35. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  36. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  37. ^ "Jolene (feat. Dolly Parton) - Single by Pentatonix on Apple Music". 2016-09-16. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  38. ^ "ARIA CHART WATCH #387". auspOp. September 24, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  39. ^ "Pentatonix Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  40. ^ "NZ Heatseekers Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. September 26, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  41. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  42. ^ "Pentatonix Chart History (Bubbling Under Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  43. ^ "Pentatonix Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  44. ^ "Sherrié Austin - Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  45. ^ Marc Malkin. "Miley Cyrus Cover Songs: Dolly Parton's"Jolene" Isn't the Only One". E Online. She also performed a version with Jimmy Fallon, both in disguise, while busking in a New York City subway on one of his Late Night With Jimmy Fallon episodes.
  46. ^ "'Glee' Recap: The Kids Are Alright, But Those Adults ..." Billboard. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  47. ^ "Jolene (featuring Dolly Parton)". Archived from the original on 7 August 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  48. ^ "RIP Announces New Album "Delivered"". 93.1 JAMZ. 2019-05-29. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  49. ^ Betts, Stephen L (October 27, 2017). "Hear Cam's "Jolene"-Inspired New Song "Diane"". Rolling Stone Country. Retrieved 27 October 2017.

External links[edit]