DOLLY PARTON Explains How She Got Permission To Use RONNIE VAN ZANT's Voice On Her Cover Of 'Free Bird'
June 30, 2023
Global superstar and recent Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee Dolly Parton spoke to Hits Daily Double about her decision to cover LED ZEPPELIN's "Stairway To Heaven" and LYNYRD SKYNYRD's "Free Bird" on her upcoming "Rockstar" album. She said: "Those are the two classic songs of rock 'n' roll. Most everybody said, 'Don't touch them.'
"I'd done a country/bluegrass 'Stairway To Heaven' years ago, but I wanted to do it again, sing it the real way, true to the way it was done. Then 'Free Bird', Kent [Wells, Dolly's musical director over the last 30 years] actually produced that for LYNYRD SKYNYRD; they're coming out with a LYNYRD SKYNYRD album, and he'd worked with the guys and [drummer] Artemis [Pyle]... That song really has a history to it. We lost a couple of the guys right after I recorded it. Then Ronnie Van Zant's widow allowed us to use his voice on our record. That's not going to be on the LYNYRD SKYNYRD record, only the version we did. She allowed that, and I was so happy we got to use his real voice. They just dropped it in the way they manipulate those things now. It made it so special. I get chills every time I hear it. I'd already sung my version, and I didn't know his voice enough, but then our phrasing turned out to be almost just exact when we were singing on the song! That's such a classic. And it just goes on forever; lord, it's a 10-minute song! At least five or six minutes is guitar. I remember getting so lost in the music, just singing wherever I felt it. I felt really honored to get to sing 'Free Bird' and 'Stairway To Heaven', and I hope people will appreciate my version of them."
Parton teamed up with an all-star roster of musicians for the 30-song "Rockstar" collection which includes nine original tracks and 21 iconic rock anthems. "Rockstar" is set for global release on November 17 via Butterfly Records with distribution by Big Machine Label Group and will be available as a four-LP set, a two-CD set, digital download and on all streaming services. The record will include a collaboration with Steve Nicks called "What Has Rock And Roll Ever Done For You", "I Dreamed About Elvis" with Ronnie McDowell, and Richie Sambora, best known as the lead guitarist for BON JOVI, on the title track. In addition, Dolly got the surviving BEATLES members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr back together, along with Peter Frampton and Mick Fleetwood, to cover "Let It Be".
Parton is the most honored and revered female country singer-songwriter of all time and was recently inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Achieving 27 RIAA-certified gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards, she has had 26 songs reach No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, a record for a female artist. Parton is the first artist to have topped the Billboard's Adult Contemporary, Christian AC Songs, Hot Country Songs, Christian Airplay, Country Airplay and Dance/Mix Show Airplay radio charts. Parton became the first country artist honored as Grammy MusiCares Person Of The Year given out by NARAS. She has 48 career Top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and 110 career-charted singles over the past 50-plus years.
In 2014 the RIAA recognized her impact on recorded music with a plaque commemorating more than 100 million units sold worldwide. She has garnered eleven Grammy Awards and 51 nominations, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, 10 Country Music Association Awards, including Entertainer of the Year; five Academy Of Country Music Awards, also including a nod for Entertainer Of The Year; four People's Choice Awards; and three American Music Awards. In 1999, Parton was inducted as a member of the coveted Country Music Hall Of Fame.
In 2020, she released the Christmas album "A Holly Dolly Christmas" which went No. 1 on the Billboard Country and Holiday charts, as well released the best-selling coffee table book "Songteller: My Life in Lyrics". In 2021, she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie for the film "Dolly Parton's Christmas On The Square" and in December 2022, she released on NBC an all-new original holiday movie called "Dolly Parton's Mountain Magic Christmas" with her starring as well as producing; it was the most watched film of that year and the two years prior.
To date, Parton has donated over 205 million books to children around the world with her Imagination Library. Her children's book, "Coat Of Many Colors", was dedicated to the Library Of Congress to honor the Imagination Library's 100 millionth book donation. In March of 2022, Parton released the book "Run Rose Run" which she co-authored with James Patterson which sat at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller's List for five weeks, a record for this decade. She also released an accompanying album of the same name with original songs inspired by the book which reached No. 1 on three charts simultaneously — Country, Americana/Folk and Bluegrass Albums. From her "Coat Of Many Colors" while working "9 To 5", no dream is too and no mountain too high for the country girl who turned the world into her stage.
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