Dolly Parton has a long list of country radio hits under her belt, but she believes there should have been three more on that list. In a recent interview with Vulture, the country veteran revealed there are three songs of hers that radio programmers refused to play.
In fact, they determined one song was too “vulgar” for their audience — which Parton says was a simple misunderstanding of the song’s content. The other two tracks she says were deemed too progressive at the time.
“The Bargain Store”
In “The Bargain Store,” Parton likens her life to that of a discount shop. She paints a picture of a woman who’s been scorned too many times by past lovers. She’s been heartbroken, but with the right person she can become good as new again.
“I may have just what you’re looking for / If you don’t mind the fact that all the merchandise is used / But with a little mending, it could be as good as new,” she sings in the chorus.
“I’m saying come inside my heart,” she explains. “I’m talking about a broken heart and how we can put the pieces back together if we’re willing to try. I thought that was one of my most clever songs, and it’s still one of my favorites.”
“But at that time, they were saying it was vulgar and I was saying something else. The bargain store, open, come inside. You get it,” she adds.
“Down From Dover”
Parton pushed the envelope in “Down from Dover.” At the time, no one would dare write a song about a single mom. The idea of a strong woman who can care not just for herself, but a child, too, was not widely accepted.
The song follows an uncommon scheme without verses or a repeating chorus. It tells the story of a woman who was left by her lover after the two learned she was pregnant. Although he promised her he would be back, he never came “down from Dover.”
“They wouldn’t play that on the radio,” she tells Vulture. “And now you can just get pregnant on TV.”
“I felt those songs were strong when I wrote them and I thought both times, ‘Oh, man, this could be a big hit. A lot of people will relate to this and it’s a great story. It would make a great movie,'” she reminisces.
Similar to “Down from Dover,” Parton’s song “Evening Shade” dealt with a controversial topic at the time. The song describes an old orphanage named Evening Shade that was so horrific to its children. Finally, the kids decide to revolt. They undermine the headmistress and burn the orphanage down.
The song also follows a similar storytelling style, without verses or a repeating chorus.
“It’s just so well rhymed and all,” Parton reveals. “They wouldn’t play that one on the radio, either. They thought it was going to incite violence or something.”
“I don’t write songs thinking like that,” she continues. “I come up with all of these stories. They make good movies in my mind when I write. They paint pictures.”
Each of these songs wouldn’t be lost on country radio today. Country music is known for its storytelling and more often than not, fans find themselves in the lyrics.
Carrie Underwood‘s “Church Bells” is a song about revenge, and Hardy‘s song “Wait in the Truck” deals with domestic violence. Meanwhile, Jelly Roll‘s “Save Me” touches on themes of addiction and suicide.
Sounds like Parton was just ahead of her time.
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Gallery Credit: Carena Liptak