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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton

Parton shares the background and context for 175 of her songs, frankly discussing her inspiration, life, and the formerly untouchable topics she dove into headfirst through songs.

What's better than listening to Dolly talk about her inspirations, her artistic journey, her joys and her silliness, those who have influenced her, and her motivations--along with short musical snippets?


This is a fast-paced book, as Dolly talks about various thoughts as related to 175 of her songs, while country music author Robert K. Oermann intersperses short intros to add structure and background.

The interjections from Oermann are necessary, but they sometimes feel abrupt, and while Dolly's stories are as intriguing and delightful as I'd hoped, she seems to feel the need to provide summations, which begin to feel repetitive.

But none of that really mattered to me. I adored listening to Dolly laugh and ponder and reminisce and reflect. Through decades of straight-talking song lyrics, she has instinctively and repeatedly offered sympathetic points of view of the persecuted, disrespected, and dismissed: prostitutes, the poor, unwed teenage mothers, and more. The characters in her songs are often driven to the edge of what they can cope with. Sometimes Dolly lets them fall, but other times her songs about freedom (with her metaphors of butterflies and eagles) set those in her songs soaring. Meanwhile, Dolly's offhanded mentions of endless projects, ideas, collaborations, and plans make clear she's one of the hardest working women in show business.

I mentioned Dolly Parton, Songteller in the Greedy Reading List of book ideas Shhh! More Book Gift Ideas for the Holidays.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Another Dolly-focused book I'd like to read is She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh. The author examines the social progressiveness that progressive female singers like Dolly have championed through song.


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