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Dolly Parton's America

Author: WNYC Studios & OSM Audio

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In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons. Join us for a 9-episode journey into the Dollyverse.

Hosted by Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab and More Perfect.

Dolly Parton’s America is co-produced by WNYC Studios, home to great podcasts like Snap Judgement, Death, Sex & Money, and Nancy.
6 Episodes
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Dollitics

Dollitics

2019-11-1200:44:44

Dolly Parton and politics have always had an interesting relationship. On the one hand, she wrote 9 to 5, the anthem for working women and the theme song for a movie inspired by a new labor union. On the other hand, she refuses to answer questions about President Trump, or any question on politics period. Her nephew calls this “Dollitics”: Dolly doesn’t take a position because she knows half her fans are on the right, half are on the left. In this moment in history, how should we think of this kind of fiercely apolitical stance?  Is it desirable, or even possible?
Neon Moss

Neon Moss

2019-11-0500:42:3921

In this episode, we go back up the mountain to visit Dolly’s actual Tennessee mountain home.  But, can you ever go home again?  Dolly tells us stories about her first trips out of the holler, and shares with us where she lives now. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad’s first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration.
Tennessee Mountain Trance

Tennessee Mountain Trance

2019-10-2900:41:4424

We journey into the Dollyverse dimension: "Tennessee Mountain Home."Like all law abiding Tennesseans, Jad grew up with the song on a loop.  He hadn’t planned to talk with Dolly about it, but much to his surprise, he is drawn into a Tennessee Mountain Trance.  The trance opens a portal to many questions about country music, authenticity, nostalgia and belonging.  And to a place called Dollywood. We visit the replica of Dolly’s childhood cabin and find thousands of other pilgrims similarly entranced.  Along the way, we meet Wandee Pryor, who lived in a Dolly dreamworld as a girl.  And also, halfway around the world, Esther Konkara, the self-proclaimed “Kenyan Dolly Parton,” who sings "Tennessee Mountain Home" as an ode to the hills of Nairobi - hills she has not yet left.  The Tennessee Mountain home begins to seem like part of a Disney fairytale.But then, Jad and Shima get a call from Dolly’s nephew and head of security Bryan Seaver, who makes an irresistible offer. 
I Will Always Leave You

I Will Always Leave You

2019-10-2200:55:30118

Porter Wagoner led the most successful country music television show of its time, and in 1967 he needed a new “girl singer.” He turned to a 21 year old songwriter named Dolly Parton, who’d just recorded her first hit “Dumb Blonde.” So began a nearly decade-long partnership that, behind the scenes, was as contentious as it was commercially successful. This episode tells the story of the “Porter years,” the period during which Dolly arguably discovers her power - both as a performer and songwriter - and then makes the difficult (and radical for its time) decision to strike out on her own. Through interviews with Dolly, country music star Marty Stuart, Wagonmaster Buck Trent, and Porter’s daughter Deborah Wagoner, we explore how Dolly handled what’s sometimes called the great “hillbilly divorce” with such characteristic grace. 
Sad Ass Songs

Sad Ass Songs

2019-10-1500:59:1554

We begin with a simple question: How did the queen of the boob joke become a feminist icon? Helen Morales, author of “Pilgrimage to Dollywood,” gave us a stern directive – look at the lyrics! So we dive into Dolly’s discography, starting with the early period of what Dolly calls “sad ass songs” to find remarkably prescient words of female pain, slut-shaming, domestic violence, and women being locked away in asylums by cheating husbands. We explore how Dolly took the centuries-old tradition of the Appalachian “murder ballad”—an oral tradition of men singing songs about brutally killing women—and flipped the script, singing from the woman’s point of view. And as her career progresses, the songs expand beyond the pain to tell tales of leaving abuse behind.How can such pro-woman lyrics come from someone who despises the word feminism? Dolly explains.  
Dolly Parton's America Trailer

Dolly Parton's America Trailer

2019-10-0300:01:0416

In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons.
Comments (45)

daisy

seriously my new favorite show. except jad doesn't know anything about the southern female experience and acts like it's otherworldly

Nov 10th
Reply

Audrey Knox

I never comment, but I am LOVING this podcast. Learning more about Dolly (and so many other things) than I ever even realized I wanted to! Can’t wait for more episodes.

Nov 7th
Reply (1)

Joi Watson

I grew up in Tennessee as well, and Dolly has been a part of my life but I never realized why we are all drawn to her. Jad...you my friend, have answered that question. Shes just purely GOOD. I love every aspect of this podcast! The audio layers are phenomenal! I listen with earbuds, and I hear every detail of the sound effects and the dreamy musical layers. I will always be on the look out for any new projects of yours. GREAT JOB! A+++!

Nov 7th
Reply

Savagecece Knight

I love dolly and I love this show mostly because of dolly is in it😍🥰

Nov 6th
Reply (1)

Tuesday Hall

Slightly off topic, but I highly reccomend the Ken Burns Documentary mentioned in this episode. It's called "Country Music", and it was pretty amazing.

Nov 5th
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Adam White

Best episode yet. Definitely felt like an episode of Radiolab, and there's nothing wrong with that!

Nov 5th
Reply (1)

Constance Moylan

great podcast

Nov 5th
Reply (1)

deborah cassidy

I have a new found respect and love for a woman I never really had the pleasure of knowing her great life. And all the songs.just wow thank you

Nov 4th
Reply (1)

Kimberly O'Keeffe

I grew up listening to country music and always enjoyed Dolly. It wasn't until I became an adult and live a 'few' years that I understood what a women she is. I will never have her talent or money but I have made it my lifes mission to become the best women I can be.

Oct 30th
Reply (1)

Jaynann Wilson

I really look forward to my weekly dose of Dolly. Thank you for compiling so much interesting history.

Oct 29th
Reply (1)

JOJO SIWA GIRL👩💃

NESTOR BISCAY ONE

Oct 29th
Reply

JOJO SIWA GIRL👩💃

NESTOR BISCAY ONE

Oct 29th
Reply

Steve Harrison

who is dolly parten? is she famous for being famous?

Oct 28th
Reply (3)

Mark Lafhameyer

I've never heard Dolly Parton and her music laid out in such a deep liberal perspective. ugh. Half this crap was purely other people defining leftist ideology by way of Dolly Parton. Half way to the end, they weren't even talking about Dolly anymore... lol. This was a waste of time.

Oct 25th
Reply (1)

Camilla Patrícia Gomes

Great podcast!!

Oct 25th
Reply

naruto is life

All I know is this makes me smile... Thanks!

Oct 23rd
Reply

Wicked Lil Pixie

Really enjoying this podcast!

Oct 23rd
Reply

Sha Shep

i know this is small and silly, but the cover art is awful. That's not an image of beautiful real Dolly.

Oct 22nd
Reply (2)

Tuesday Hall

Why did they remix her songs? No hate, but the editing of this show is just not impressing me so far.

Oct 22nd
Reply (5)

Kay Belmoroe

I didn't know those Appalachian mountain songs were so dark, and had such old roots stemming from hanging someone for homicide. I'm going to be finding more of Dolly's early sad songs, they're so dark and different.

Oct 22nd
Reply (1)
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