In her extensive repertoire, Dolly Parton has some poignant heartbreaking songs, many of which are early in her career. A good part of those songs never made it to the radio because they were considered controversial for their time. But that didn’t stop Parton from writing them.
Why Dolly Parton loves to write ‘sad’ songs
When Parton was growing up, she was heavily influenced by the songs she listened to as a child, which often had very dark themes.
“As a songwriter, I love writing those sad things and putting myself in those situations,” she wrote in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “It comes from those early days with all the old songs that I grew up with. I loved feeling all the pain in a song. In my early days, I wrote about everything. I just wanted to write great stories or write about situations where I could imagine myself. “
Many of the songs that Parton wrote that were inspired by the songs of his childhood never made it to the radio. But that didn’t stop him from writing more.
“I wrote a lot of songs that people wouldn’t hear on the radio, but I didn’t care,” he wrote. “It bothered me at the time, but I never thought, ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ Everything I write is what comes out of me, and I refuse to be judged. ”
“The Bridge” is an incredibly sad song that Parton wrote about a woman who, feeling desperate, steps off a bridge. The Country Queen wrote the song when she was in high school, before her career took off.
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“‘The Bridge’ is a song I wrote before I left school,” Parton wrote. “I didn’t publish it until much later. But I wrote it long before [Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 hit] ‘Ode to Billie Joe’. I had my own bridge, at home. ”
He goes on to explain what the character of the song thinks: “There’s no way out of this, so I’m going to take the plunge and go.”
The theme is one that Parton relates to: “A lot of people go through it,” he wrote. “I have had suicides in my own family. It’s a horrible thing to have to deal with. “
Dolly Parton’s personal experience with suicide
In an interview with Jad Abumrad on the podcast, Dolly Parton’s AmericaParton said she herself had suicidal thoughts in the early 1980s.
“I was having some serious conversations with God during that time,” he said.
“I just said things like, ‘Look, this is ridiculous. I am not happy,’ [and] discussing why when they say that you should not commit suicide because it is a sin for which you cannot be forgiven, ”he continued. “It was all confusing to me and I was angry and hurt and I wasn’t happy so I just said, ‘You’re going to have to give me some answers or I’m out of here. And then we’ll both take care of that. ‘
At a particularly low time, Parton believes that God sent him a sign.
“My little dog, Popeye, at that point, jumped on the bed when I was writing my … you know,” he said. “God is dog spelled backwards, and I always thought it could have been exactly that.”
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Parton classifies herself as “a very sensitive person.” That is why his songs are so full of heart.
“I’m a songwriter so I have to live with my feelings on my sleeve,” she told Southern Living in 2014. “I don’t have to harden my heart, because I want to be open to feeling things. So when it hurts, everything hurts. And when I cry, I cry very hard. And when I am angry, I am completely angry. I am just one person; I like to experience whatever the feeling is and whatever I’m going through. But I have a good attitude. And I was born with a happy heart. I’m always looking for things to improve. “
How to get help: In the US, Call National Lifeline for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME at 741-741 to speak with a trained crisis counselor at the Crisis text line.