Arts·Q with Tom Power

At 77, Dolly Parton has officially entered her Rockstar era

After building an empire as one of the most successful country artists of all time, Parton has released her first-ever album of rock songs. She talks to Q's Tom Power about the inspiration behind her new album, titled Rockstar.

The country music superstar joins Q's Tom Power to discuss her first-ever album of rock songs

One of four covers for Dolly Parton's album, Rockstar, featuring Parton wearing a snakeskin suit, behind the wheel of a car.
One of four covers for Dolly Parton's 49th solo album, Rockstar. The others feature Parton in similar outfits mounting a motorcycle, holding an electric guitar, or posing with a leather eye patch in the shape of a star. (Vijat Mohindra)

After a career as big and boisterous as Dolly Parton's, you might be asking yourself: what's left for her to do?

As it turns out, the answer is rock and roll. For the first time ever, Parton has tackled rock music head-on with a new album, Rockstar, which sees the 77-year-old country legend cover 21 classics along with nine originals.

In an interview with Q's Tom Power, Parton explains that the record was inspired by her 2022 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — an honour she felt she hadn't earned.

"They were telling me I was going to be inducted and I thought, well, I have not earned that right because there's so many people I know in the rock field that have never even made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and should have," she says. "I wasn't being controversial, I was just being concerned that I might not belong there.

"They convinced me that it was about more than just being in rock, that my music had influenced people through the years. So when they went ahead and told me all that, I said, 'Well, then if that's how it is, I'll gracefully accept.' Went in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and I thought, well, I can't just be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame without something rock and roll. So that's what inspired me to do the album."

In the '60s and '70s, around the time Parton got her start, the lines between country and rock weren't what they are now. Popular artists like Elvis and Conway Twitty were both involved with rockabilly music, an early style of rock and roll.

"I've been rocking since the day I was born," says Parton. "I think we all kind of grew up on that, even those of us in country music."

"So many of the great artists that were in rock were from Memphis, from Tennessee. They were just country people like Carl Perkins with the Blue Suede Shoes, and of course Chuck Berry. Even though he was just so commercial, you would think that Chuck was like a country person, the way he wrote the songs and the way he performed. And of course Little Richard, who everybody loved because he was just Little Richard! He was crazy and exciting and all that. But yeah, I think most of us in our young years, even the country kids, were listening to that. I remember the first time I ever heard the Beatles sing I Want to Hold Your Hand, I think I was in high school at the time, and I thought that was the greatest sound that I'd ever heard."

For Rockstar, Parton reached out to a star-studded list of collaborators, including former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, music icons Elton John and Sting as well as her goddaughter Miley Cyrus. The album also features collaborations with the likes of Lizzo, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Debbie Harry, Kid Rock, P!nk, and many others. 

Watch Parton's full interview with Power, or listen to it on our podcast, for more of what she had to say about her collaborations on Rockstar.

WATCH | Dolly Parton's interview with Tom Power:

The full interview with Dolly Parton is available on our podcast, Q with Tom Power. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Interview with Dolly Parton produced by Vanessa Nigro.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vivian Rashotte is a digital producer, writer and photographer for Q with Tom Power. She's also a visual artist. You can reach her at vivian.rashotte@cbc.ca.

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