Tag Archive | songwriter

Dolly Parton

I Will Always Love You

January 19, 2021

Hers is a household name. Superficially, she is known for her over the top persona as a country music performer and icon. There is, however, a reason for her successful career which has now spanned 60 years. Long before Madonna or Lady Gaga invented their outrageous selves, we had Dolly Parton, a true original.

Today, January 19, 2021, marks the singer/songwriter’s 75th birthday.

It’s been a remarkable career. Especially for a woman born in a one room cabin in east Tennessee. The family was beyond broke but it was, perhaps, that beginning which helped to galvanize Parton’s will. We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for the background:

“Parton has described her family as being ‘dirt poor.’ Parton’s father paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of cornmeal. She outlined her family’s poverty in her early songs ‘Coat of Many Colors’ and ‘In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)’. For approximately 6 to 7 years, Parton and her family lived in a rustic, one-bedroom cabin on a small subsistence farm on Locust Ridge. This was a predominately Pentecostal area located north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains. Music played an important role in her early life. She was brought up in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), in a congregation her grandfather, Jake Robert Owens, pastored. Her earliest public performances were in the church, beginning at age six. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar. When she was eight, her uncle bought her first real guitar.

Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area.] By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At 13, she was recording (the single ‘Puppy Love’) on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her own instincts regarding her career.”

Unless you were a fan of country music you likely had never heard of Parton until the 1970’s or 1980’s. It was in these two decades that her career crossed over into the Top 40 charts; she was also cast in several movies and featured on variety music shows with such stars as Cher and Carol Burnett.

Parton has won two Academy Awards, seven Grammys, 11 Country Music Association awards, and five Golden Globes. In her career, she has sold over 100 million records.

In my mind, however, it is her songwriting which will be her most enduring legacy. I would argue that she’s been, perhaps, the most prolific and successful songwriter of the 20th century.

During an interview on Larry King Live in March 2009, she answered his question about how many songs she’d written this way:

“Well, you know, I don’t count them, Larry. But I’ve been writing since I was a little bitty girl. I was probably 7 years old when I started playing the guitar and writing some serious songs. So, I know that I have at least 3,000 songs that I have written. I’ve got songs in boxes, drawers, stuff I carried from home when I left, that I still haven’t gotten through. And I write something almost every day, least an idea down. But that’s not to say they’re all good, but that’s what I do and it’s what I love to do.”

Image from quotefancy.com

I understand how powerful the impetus to write is for a person. One’s brain is constantly tumbling new ideas and thinking ‘what if.’

Songwriting, however, is a completely different world and one which inspires awe, at least for me. For some songwriters, they hear the music and can create that alone. For others, they work with composers to make a marriage of their poetic words with someone else’s music. And then there are those, like Dolly Parton, who do both things. It’s a rare talent.

Over 3,000 songs – that was in 2009 – and she is still writing them. Amazing.

When the hubby, my son and daughter, and I visited Nashville in 2013, we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame (CMHF); A truly fascinating place which pays tribute to the biggest stars of the genre.

My favorite section in the building turned out to be an interactive display which featured five Country Music songwriters including, of course, Dolly Parton. The rest of the visitors, as well as my own family, melted into the background as I really began to understand and appreciate Parton’s amazing contribution to the American experience.

It was there – still reading about Parton – that the family found me quite some time later and pretty much had to force me to leave to go get lunch.

The fact that I never got through the entire display just gives me an excuse to return to Nashville so I can read the rest of what I missed. Next time I’ll head straight to that section of the CMHF. And, as long as I’m in Tennessee, I think continuing east for a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains and Dollywood might also be in order. Sounds like a great roadtrip!

The exhaustive article from the Infallible Wikipedia is found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_Parton

A list of songs she’s written which have been published: https://www.azlyrics.com/d/dollyparton.html

Bob Dylan

Blowin’ In The Wind

December 10, 2019

Every year on December 10th, the Nobel Prize winners are announced. This particular winner from 2016 came as quite the surprise. When one thinks of American authors who have been recognized names such as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Pearl S. Buck come to mind.

Bob Dylan, however, was awarded the prize for his “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan then and now

As a songwriter, many of his early songs defined a mood and a generation. Blowin’ In The Wind became an anthem for the 1960’s war protest movement. The Times They Are a Changin’ is perhaps his best known song from this volatile era.

In nearly six decades, he’s created an amazing amount of work, not just in music but in other art forms as well. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Since 1994, Dylan has published eight books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries. He has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has also received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize Board in 2008 awarded him a special citation for ‘his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.’ In 2016, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature…”

Perhaps no other activity best defines his career as that of what has been dubbed ‘The Never Ending Tour.’ Dylan has performed over 3,000 concerts, often more than 100 a year, since June 1988, Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In 2019, Dylan undertook two tours in Europe. The first commenced in Düsseldorf, Germany, on March 31, and ended in Valencia, Spain, on May 7. He played his 3000th show of the Never Ending Tour on April 19, 2019, in Innsbruck, Austria. Dylan’s second tour began in Bergen, Norway, on June 21, and ended in Kilkenny, Ireland, on July 14. Dylan’s touring company has announced his tour of the USA in the fall of 2019, commencing in Irvine, California on October 11 and ending in Washington D.C. on December 8.

In October 2019, Dylan’s touring company that he would play 14 concerts in Japan in April 2020.

Love him or not, Dylan is most certainly an original, following his own path and vision, always eschewing convention. Despite turning 78 on May 24th, he continues to keep a schedule which most people of a similar age would find impossible.

I must admit, I do not own a single Bob Dylan record/CD. It may have something to do with his distinctive voice.

When my daughter was a young teen she heard Bob Dylan for the first time. Her always expressive face registered surprise at the gravelly nature of it… and not in a positive way.

Of course the Hubby – ever one to capitalize on things which bugged her – did his best Bob Dylan impression, singing “The answer… my friend… is blowin’… in … the  wind.” Be sure to use your best raspy Dylan voice and insert pauses where the ellipses are for best results.

It has since become a running family joke. Mention Bob Dylan and someone is certain to try their hardest to imitate the man.

Here are a couple of links including three of Dylan singing the aforementioned Blowin’ In the Wind at various times in his career. I can only imagine that Dylan who, after all this time, must be sick of performing the song.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Dylan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_in_Literature

Here are a couple more ‘versions’ of Dylan singing Blowin’ In The Wind:

https://youtu.be/ifFZeVQxxEY

https://youtu.be/1k9tqQL6-9A

Nobel prize information dylan.jpg

The Facebook Quiz Answers:

  1. Toni Morrison 2. Ernest Hemingway 3. Pearl S. Buck 4. Bob Dylan (2016- Most Recent) 5. Sinclair Lewis (1930- First)