What does Dolly, herself, have to say about the new songs on "Halos & Horns?" Find out here:
"Halos and Horns” (Dolly Parton)
thought of the title about two years ago when I was trying to pitch a pilot for
a TV show to Fox. Nothing ever happened with it, but I just thought that was a
great title. When I finally wrote the song last summer, I thought it would make
a good album title, because it sets up the whole album being about sinners and
saints. I go from one song about swimming naked in the pond to a spiritual
number. We’re all struggling to be good, but we can’t be all the time.
it’s just so country. When I started singing it, it took me all the way back
to the days of Porter Wagoner and Hank Locklin and all of us.
“Sugar Hill” (Dolly Parton)
I’d look at my record company’s label, I’d think, “Sugar Hill, now
that’s a really pretty name.” I wondered if there was a place called Sugar
Hill and found out there were several. The one I courted on wasn’t called
Sugar Hill, but it got pretty sweet when I was up on it. I wrote the song
because of the record label. My own little record label is called Blue Eye, so I
thought this would be a great Blue Eye way to “brown nose.”
“Not for Me” (Dolly Parton)
says this is such a beautiful vocal, but that they hate to hear me sing so sad.
There’s a strange story about the song. It’s at least 35 years old, but
it’s never been on a record. I totally forgot it, myself. I’ve got boxes,
buckets and trunks of old tapes. I was looking for a particular old song of mine
that I wanted to use in the museum at Dollywood. We grabbed one tape and I
pushed the “Play” button on the tape recorder and this song started playing,
“Not for Me.” I thought it was a beautiful melody and I was picking the
guitar before I had fingernails and I remembered that I used to play really
good. I don’t even remember when I wrote it. It was just a vague memory, but
it must have been a time when I was feeling sad. It had to have been right when
I first came to Nashville [in 1964], because there were other songs on that tape
that were written before I even left home.
“Hello God” (Dolly Parton)
day after September 11th, I was “given” several songs. One was
called “Color Me America,” which I’ll be performing at live shows. The
next one that came is “Hello God.” I realized just how fragile we really
are, and how small life is, and how everything can change in the blink of an
had really strong feelings. That song was given to me, that and “Raven
Dove.” Some songs write themselves. This one was just calling out, saying,
hope everything comes across as I meant it. It’s like everybody believes that
God is their God. But God belongs to everybody.
lines: “I have questioned Your existence, and my resistance leaves me cold.”
It’s like, if You exist, how could You let this happen? But then not to
believe there’s a God is even worse. Then you’re just cold and totally
alone. We’re not strong. We need You. We gotta have some help.
“If” (David Gates)
that song and I’ve always wanted to record it. But I didn’t just want to
rework the slow version that Bread did. I thought it would lend itself to a
treatment with a feeling like “Everybody’s Talking,” or the way Ray
Stevens did “Misty.” A good song can be done any way.
“Shattered Image” (Dolly Parton)
The reason I decided to re-do it is because
of all the shit that comes out in the tabloids. It’s like they punish you to
death. They tell some God-awful things. Why can’t people just leave you alone
to live your life as you see fit? So that is why I wanted to drag this song back
out, because I was feeling like that.
“These Old Bones” (Dolly Parton)
old mountain woman’s voice is my mother’s. I’m always cracking up my
brothers and sisters with that voice. I can “do” Mama, because I’m so much
like her. My brothers and sisters will fall over laughing when they hear it, but
Mama won’t recognize it as her. She’ll say, “Lord have mercy! Why do you
sound like some old woman?”
was up at the Tennessee Mountain Home, writing. I was making up breakfast and
thinking about this title that had come to me in a dream the night before. Then
later I started making up a “mountain” story about some old crazy woman who
was psychic. ‘Cause we have those “up home” all the time.
I wrote the song I got the idea of using Mama for the old woman’s voice,
mother and daughter. And in the “duet” at the end, it does sound exactly
like me and Mama singing. I’m so glad that I did this, because now I can write
more stories about this character, on each album. It touched me when I thought
that, because now I can have Mama forever. As long as I live, Mama can be with
us, through me. I can “channel” her. Kind of like the “Dollymama.”
“What a Heartache” (Dolly Parton)
song originally appeared on the soundtrack of Rhinestone. I loved that
other version, but I love the song too much to just let it lie there. Something
in me says that somebody is going to have a big hit record on this someday. It
may not be me. But if I do it enough and enough people hear it, somebody else
will do it.
“I’m Gone” (Dolly Parton)
is a good “kiss-off” song. It’s loosely based on a couple I dearly loved,
some relatives of mine. He had saved back a little bit of money and had some
property. He was stingy. He wouldn’t turn loose of nothin’. They argued all
the time. I remember her saying one time, “You’d probably divorce me, but
you’re afraid I’d take half of everything!” That is so true of so many
people. I thought, “I’d rather live in a cardboard box under a bridge than
to live with somebody who didn’t love me or somebody I couldn’t stand to
look at.” That got me thinking, “If I was married to somebody I didn’t
like, I’d just leave with nothing.” I love some of these lines – “My
ceramic shop out back” – “A UFO abducted me from home” – “In the
witness program with the F.B.I.” It’s one of my favorites.
“Raven Dove” (Dolly Parton)
I woke up
at 2 o’clock in the morning. Something just pulled me out of bed. It was like
a force, but not scary. It was like a little inner voice told me to get up
because I had something to do. I went into the kitchen, sat down and thought,
“OK. Now what?” I got out a piece of paper and wrote the line, “Raven of
darkness, dove of peace.” Then I started writing words I didn’t even realize
were still stuck in my head from my religious background. And where did that
melody come from? It’s such an unusual thing. This whole song was strange for
me. It was a very inspired song.
“Dagger Through the Heart” (Dolly Parton)
seems to love this one. “These Old Bones” and “Dagger Through the Heart”
are the two I seem to “punch up” most often. I had another song with this
title, but it was pretty mediocre so I re-wrote it. The good thing about having
a big catalog is that you can pick out good lines from here and there. You find
them in your head. You find them in your heart. I have books and books full of
titles and lines and unfinished lyrics. I’ll never get to all of them. I was
proud of how this one turned out.
“If Only” (Dolly Parton)
doing the Mae West story as a movie, and I was writing some original songs for
it. This was one of them, “If Only.” I was doing it in a Mae West voice, in
the style of a piano bar. Then they decided to take the piece out. They didn’t
want her singing something this sad. So I just took it and did it my way.
“John Daniel” (Dolly Parton)
another one that’s 30-35 years old. I know I wrote it before “I Will Always
Love You” and “Jolene.” You can tell its age by the setting of hippies in
the park, because that’s how it was when I wrote it. I’ve always loved the
song, and I knew I wanted to use the Kingdom Heirs quartet on the album. I was
thinking of songs I’ve written that I haven’t recorded, and “John
Daniel” came to mind.
“Stairway to Heaven” (Jimmy Page/Robert Plant)
was a song I loved and a song that [husband] Carl loved. We used to love it
together. To me, it’s like “After the Goldrush.” It’s an abstract song.
You really don’t know what it means. It sounds Old World. On the last couple
of albums, I did “Shine,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Traveling
Prayer,” so everybody is expecting me to do something “different” on this
album, too. Well, I’m the only person to have the nerve to deal with classics.
That’s why I took it, ad-libbed it and made it more spiritual.
didn’t do it just for the gimmick – my love for the song comes from a very
real place. It’s not just about making it work – it’s about it really
being a part of you. So I thought, “What the hey – I’m just going to go
with it, and if it didn’t turn out good, nobody would ever know I even tried
it.” I knew I was walking on sacred ground because it is a classic.
But any time you make a change in lyrics or in my case the ad-libs, you have to get an OK from the writers and publisher. I was scared to death to send it to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. They sent word back that it was fine and they loved it. In fact, Robert Plant said he’d always thought of it as a spiritual song, and he was thrilled we’d used a choir on it, because he thought about that, too. If they like it, that’s most important to me. But I do hope the public will accept it too. I even hope they love it.