It’s clear why Dolly Parton’s ‘Down from Dover’ was refused play by radio stations. ttmd

Dolly Parton is one of the most important musicians in recent decades.

Yes, she is a country star through and through, but her influence doesn’t start and stop at country music. The way that she can craft songs, the melodies that she plays with and her ability as a writer are so infectious that her bootprint has made a stamp on music that isn’t going anywhere.

'Down from Dover': the Dolly Parton song that radio stations refused to play

Her writing ability is second to none. She can craft narratives in her music that tell stories reserved for the silver screen. There is so much emotion packed into everything she writes that one of her hits, ‘I Will Always Love You’, was used for one of the pivotal scenes in the 1992 film The Bodyguard.

Meanwhile, other hit tracks of hers, such as ‘Jolene’ and ‘9 to 5’, use their words incredibly well. While there is a rhythm there which would be impossible to escape no matter what the song’s subject matter, the way Parton can talk about working life and pining for a lover is so timeless that the stories contained within her music live on to this day.

While she may be revered for her ability to paint a picture with words, her powers of description have also occasionally landed the country singer in hot water. In 1969, Parton released ‘Down from Dover’ from her album The Fairest of Them All, a song that was controversially received.

In the track, Parton writes about a woman getting pregnant outside of wedlock. A narrative forms itself around the song as Parton admits she took inspiration from some of the stories she’d heard about women getting turned away from their homes and towns if they got pregnant outside of wedlock. “When I wrote that – Lord, so many years ago… I knew a lot of young girls getting pregnant, and usually, in the mountains, people would pretty much turn you out,” she said.

“You were trash and a whore, and your daddy and mama wouldn’t let you come home, so you’d have to go to some home for unwed mothers, or a relative would take you in.” Upset by these circumstances, Parton wrote a piece that spoke about these women who were turned away from their homes, and a story began to form as she did, “I’m touched by everything, and that used to bother me: how cruel and awful must that be, how lonely they must feel. That was great fodder for a song: it came to me as a story, like writing a movie.”

The sad picture Parton painted with the track was too much for some people, though, as it got banned by radio stations. Parton recalled the incident in a separate interview, saying how happy she is that female musicians can be more open in their music today. “They wouldn’t play that on the radio. And a few of the other songs I had a little trouble with,” she said, “I think it’s a new day and age, and people are getting away with a lot more now, which is good.”

Being a great songwriter isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes, like Dolly Parton, you can be so good and tell a story so well through music that if anyone deems it to be remotely controversial, which the subject matter in ‘Down from Dover’ was in the 1960s, then it won’t get played.


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