Dolly Parton is a fabulous writer?
There’s no doubt that Dolly Parton is fabulous, just in general. Her literacy program, Imagination Library, where she sends free books to millions of children worldwide, is proof of that. On her website, she states:
“When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer.
The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”
I love that quote. I especially love that she subtly references herself as a singer AND a writer.
Be honest, when you think about Dolly Parton, is writer the first word that pops into your mind? No? Me neither.
And yet, she’s both brilliant and incredibly prolific. She’s written hundreds of songs, both for herself and for other artists. It’s easy not to notice how smart her lyrics are, because she’s so charming and folksy. But when I really think about her story-telling abilities and her knack for metaphors, I get some serious writer’s envy.
Notice her use of active verbs and metaphor in the opening lines of “9 to 5”, as well as how she effortlessly establishes the exposition:
There’s also this song, the lesser known “Dagger Through the Heart.” I love the imagery, the way she uses hyperbole, and how she doesn’t use mixed metaphors. (The used box of crayons simile combined with “you’ve made hurtin’ me an such art” is just so spot-on.)
And what about her arguably most popular song, “Here You Come Again”? The story telling is so tight, and so is the characterization, not to mention effortlessly effective use of 2nd person POV. I feel like I know everything I need to know about this guy, and about her, and about their relationship. Dolly communicates so much through use of imagery and details (his body, his smile, his mannerisms, etc.) and also through tone (The word choice, which paints a rather bleak picture, contrasts with the actual tone of the music, which is upbeat and chipper.) She tells a complete story of a relationship, which is something many novelists struggle to do.
I think you’d have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t love Dolly Parton.
But because of her down-home persona, I think she gets overlooked when it comes to her writing ability. The next time I need inspiration for truly good storytelling, I’ll just start combing through her lyrics.