Meaning of Jolene by Dolly Parton

Two red-haired beauties prompted Dolly Parton to write the famous song Jolene. And if the first star of country music recalls with a sincere smile, the second singer responds without warm notes in her voice.

She spoke about the history of the hit in numerous interviews, so we can only give a few excerpts.

The history of creation and the meaning of the song Jolene Dolly Parton

In the sixties, when Dolly Parton began her career on television, after filming, she always signed autographs for the audience in the studio. Here is the singer’s word:

One evening I was on stage, and a charming little girl was sitting in the audience. She was probably eight years old. She had charming red hair, charming skin and charming green eyes. And she was looking up at me, holding me, you know, for an autograph. And I said, “Listen, you are the prettiest little girl I have ever seen. What is your name?”. And she said, “Jolene.” And I said, “Okay, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. It’s lovely. It sounds like a song. I’ll write a song about it.”

NPR Music, 2008

But meeting that girl was just a prelude. The main source of inspiration for Parton was another Jolyne. We are talking about a cashier from a bank where Dolly’s husband used to be:

She was head over heels in love with my husband. And he just loved going to the bank because she gave him so much attention. For us it was something akin to a familiar joke when I said: “Damn, you spend so much time in the bank. I don’t believe we have that much money.” It’s actually a completely innocent song, but it sounds terrible.

NPR Music, 2008

In 2014, speaking at the Glastonbury Festival, Dolly Parton also told the audience from the stage about who Jolene was from the song:

Now, some of you may or may not know that there is a bit of truth behind the song. I wrote it many years ago when my husband spent a little more time with Jolene than I thought he should have. I put an end to this. I disposed of that red-haired woman without delay.

…something good can come from anywhere. If it wasn’t for that woman, I would never have written Jolene and made all that money. So thank you, Jolene.

Release and achievements of the song Jolene

In October 1973, the composition was released as a single from the Jolene album. It topped the US country charts and peaked at number seven on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Dolly Parton’s first Top Ten hit on the UK Singles Chart.

Let’s watch the music video of Jolene – Dolly Parton.

Jolene cover versions

The composition was performed by dozens of musicians. According to Dolly Parton, this song of hers was most often recorded by other singers. Let’s hear how The White Stripes sang it.

Let’s also watch a video clip from Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton. Their wonderful version has achieved chart success in several countries.

Interesting Facts

  • Jolene is one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.
  • Various musicians have continued Jolene’s story or referenced it in their songs. Such response compositions were Caroline Kirsty Maccoll, That Girl Jennifer Nettles, Jolene Ewert and the Two Dragons and other tracks.

Jolene Dolly Parton Lyrics

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you, please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can

Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene
He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene
And I can easily understand
How could you easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene


You could have your choice of men
But I could never love again
He’s the only one for me, Jolene
I had to have this talk with you
my happiness depends on you
And whatever you decide to do, Jolene


Jolene lyrics by Dolly Parton

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take it just because you can

Your beauty is beyond compare
Golden chestnut curls are on fire
Ivory skin and emerald green eyes
Your smile is like the breath of spring
And your voice is gentle like summer rain
I can’t compare to you Jolene
He talks about you in his sleep
All I can do is cry
When he calls your name Jolene
And of course I understand
That you could easily take my man
But you don’t understand what it means to me Jolene


You could choose your men
But I couldn’t love again
He’s the only one for me, Jolene
I need to talk to you about this.
My happiness depends on you
Whatever you choose to do, Jolene


Song quote

It’s a wonderful chord progression. People love the Jolene tune… And because the same word is repeated over and over again, even a first grader or baby can sing “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene.”

Dolly Parton, NPR Music

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