Dolly Parton: The Songbird of the Smokies and Her 14 All-Time Best Songs

By Tessa Nolan

Dolly Parton, the Queen of Country, has become an iconic figure in American music. Her enchanting voice, heartfelt lyrics, and magnetic personality have captured the hearts of millions worldwide. With countless hits to her name, Parton has left an indelible mark on the country, bluegrass, and pop genres. In this article, we will explore Parton’s 20 greatest songs, ranking them based on their impact, critical acclaim, and enduring popularity. From her early days in the Appalachians to her journey into mainstream success, join us as we celebrate the extraordinary musical legacy of Dolly Parton.

14. “Coat of Many Colors” (1971)

Written by Parton herself, “Coat of Many Colors” tells the touching story of her impoverished childhood. This poignant ballad captures the essence of resilience and the power of love, reminding listeners of the strength that can be found in even the simplest of possessions.

13. “My Tennessee Mountain Home” (1973)

This nostalgic tune harkens back to Parton’s upbringing in the Great Smoky Mountains. With her smooth vocals and evocative lyrics, she beautifully captures the essence of rural life, taking listeners on a sentimental journey down memory lane.

12. “9 to 5” (1980)

Parton’s crossover hit “9 to 5” became an anthem for the working class. Combining infectious pop hooks with empowering lyrics, this chart-topper cemented Parton’s status as a force to be reckoned with in the mainstream music scene.

11. “Here You Come Again” (1977)

Parton’s silky vocals shine in this upbeat, pop-infused country song. “Here You Come Again” showcases her undeniable talent for crafting infectious melodies that stay with listeners long after the song ends.

10. “Jolene” (1973)

Possibly one of Parton’s most recognized and revered songs, “Jolene” tells the tale of a woman begging another not to steal her man. With its raw emotion, intense vulnerability, and mesmerizing lyrics, this classic has stood the test of time, earning a place on countless “best songs” lists.

9. “Islands in the Stream” (1983)

Collaborating with Kenny Rogers, Parton creates magic in the duet “Islands in the Stream.” With its infectious melody and heartfelt lyrics, this soaring love song stands as one of Parton’s most beloved and successful endeavors.

8. “Two Doors Down” (1977)

Delivering a catchy, toe-tapping melody, “Two Doors Down” showcases Parton’s versatility as an artist. This lively tune, filled with zestful energy, captures the essence of a carefree night out on the town, making it a go-to feel-good song for many listeners.

7. “In the Ghetto” (1969)

Parton’s poignant cover of Elvis Presley’s hit “In the Ghetto” showcases her ability to connect with audiences on a profound emotional level. Her haunting interpretation breathes new life into this social commentary, reminding us of the struggles faced by the less fortunate.

6. “Love Is Like a Butterfly” (1974)

With its whimsical lyrics and tender melody, “Love Is Like a Butterfly” captivates listeners with its ethereal charm. Parton’s delicate vocals deliver a heartfelt message about the enigmatic nature of love, leaving a lasting impression on those who listen.

5. “Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That” (1989)

This infectious, uptempo number became a chart-topping hit for Parton. With its catchy hooks and witty lyrics, the song brings an undeniable sense of fun and flirtation to the dance floor.

4. “I Will Always Love You” (1974/1982)

Originally released in 1974, “I Will Always Love You” shot back to the top of the charts in 1982 when Parton recorded it for the film “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” This heartfelt ballad has become iconic, thanks to its timeless message of love and loss.

3. “Hard Candy Christmas” (1982)

Featured in the film “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Hard Candy Christmas” delivers a poignant depiction of resilience in the face of adversity. Parton’s emotive vocals and introspective lyrics perfectly capture the spirit of hope during challenging times.

2. “Applejack” (1977)

“Applejack” perfectly showcases Parton’s storytelling abilities. This feel-good tune tells the tale of a young woman’s longing for a cowboy named Applejack, drawing listeners into an irresistible narrative filled with charm and playfulness.

1. “Tennessee Homesick Blues” (1984)

As an homage to her home state, “Tennessee Homesick Blues” encapsulates Parton’s deep love for Tennessee.