Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” Slowed Down to 33RPM Sounds Great and Takes on New, Unexpected Meanings

The Wal­rus isDol­ly Par­ton?

Not every record yields gold when played back­wards or spun more slow­ly than rec­om­mend­ed, but a 45 of Parton’s 1973 hit “Jolene” played at 33RPM not only sounds won­der­ful, it also man­ages to reframe the nar­ra­tive.

As Andrea Den­Hoed notes in The New York­er, “Slow Ass Jolene,” above, trans­forms Parton’s “baby-high sopra­no” into some­thing deep, soul­ful and seem­ing­ly, male.

In its orig­i­nal ver­sion, the much-cov­ered “Jolene” is a straight up woman-to-woman chest-bar­ing. Our nar­ra­tor knows her man is obsessed with the sexy, auburn-haired Jolene, to the point where he talks about her in his sleep.

Appar­ent­ly she also knows bet­ter than to raise the sub­ject with him. Instead, she appeals to Jolene’s sense of mer­cy:

You could have your choice of men

But I could nev­er love again

He’s the only one for me, Jolene

The song is some­what auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal, though the sit­u­a­tion was nowhere near as dire as lis­ten­ers might assume. In an inter­view with NPR, Par­ton recalled a red-haired bank teller who devel­oped a big crush on her hus­band when she was a young bride:

And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much atten­tion. It was kin­da like a run­ning joke between us — when I was say­ing, ‘Hell, you’re spend­ing a lot of time at the bank. I don’t believe we’ve got that kind of mon­ey.’ So it’s real­ly an inno­cent song all around, but sounds like a dread­ful one. 

For the record, the teller’s name wasn’t Jolene.

Jolene was a pret­ty lit­tle girl who attend­ed an ear­ly Par­ton con­cert. Par­ton was so tak­en with the child, and her unusu­al name, that she resolved to write a song about her.

Yes, the kid had red hair and green eyes.

Wouldn’t it be wild if she grew up to be a bank teller?

I digress…

In the orig­i­nal ver­sion, the irre­sistible cho­rus where­in the soon-to-be-spurned par­ty invokes Jolene’s name again and again is plain­tive and fierce.

In the slow ass ver­sion, it’s plain­tive and sad.

The pain is the same, but the sit­u­a­tion in much less straight­for­ward, thanks to blur­ri­er gen­der lines.

Par­ton told NPR that women are “always threat­ened by oth­er women, peri­od.”

Jolene’s prodi­gious fem­i­nine assets could also prove wor­ri­some to a gay man whose bisex­u­al lover’s eye is prone to wan­der.

Or maybe the singer and his man live in a place where same sex unions are frowned on. Per­haps the singer’s man craves the com­fort of a more social­ly accept­able domes­tic sit­u­a­tion.

Or per­haps Jolene is one hot female-iden­ti­fied toma­to, and as far as the singer’s man’s con­cerned, his pas­tor and his granny can go to hell! Jolene’s the only one for him.

Or, as one wag­gish Youtube com­menter suc­cinct­ly put it, “Jolene bet­ter stay the hell away from Roy Orbi­son’s man!”

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

I’m beg­ging of you please don’t take my man

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

Please don’t take him just because you can

Your beau­ty is beyond com­pare

With flam­ing locks of auburn hair

With ivory skin and eyes of emer­ald green

Your smile is like a breath of spring

Your voice is soft like sum­mer rain

And I can­not com­pete with you, Jolene

He talks about you in his sleep

There’s noth­ing I can do to keep

From cry­ing when he calls your name, Jolene

And I can eas­i­ly under­stand

How you could eas­i­ly take my man

But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

I’m beg­ging of you please don’t take my man

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

Please don’t take him just because you can

You could have your choice of men

But I could nev­er love again

He’s the only one for me, Jolene

I had to have this talk with you

My hap­pi­ness depends on you

And what­ev­er you decide to do, Jolene

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

I’m beg­ging of you please don’t take my man

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene

Please don’t take him even though you can

Jolene, Jolene

via @WFMU

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Feel Strange­ly Nos­tal­gic as You Hear Clas­sic Songs Reworked to Sound as If They’re Play­ing in an Emp­ty Shop­ping Mall: David Bowie, Toto, Ah-ha & More

Hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Shift­ed from Minor to Major Key, and Radiohead’s “Creep” Moved from Major to Minor

R.E.M.’s “Los­ing My Reli­gion” Reworked from Minor to Major Scale

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 24 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (7)
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  • Jeff says:

    This would be inter­est­ing if the Sis­ters of Mer­cy had­n’t already cov­ered Jolene in the 1980s…

  • Raymond Cartwright says:

    I think this slowed down ver­sion just rein­forces my per­cep­tion of Dol­ly Par­ton as a won­der­ful musi­cian. I miss the ner­vous ener­gy of this song as played in real speed; that ener­gy that pleads for Jolene to let go of Dol­ly’s man now, not an hour from now, not tomor­row, but right now. What I do like about this slowed down ver­sion is that it reas­sures me of how well in tune Dol­ly sings, and what a good job she does with her phras­ing.

    I like this slowed down ver­sion very much, but I still pre­fer Jolene played at real speed.

  • Tom says:

    I used to have a radio show and would play Ring my Bell by Ani­ta Ward at 33rpm
    sounds AMAZING

  • Graham says:

    That was good, but I imag­ine it slow­er, more plain­tive
    A slow burn that would be total­ly tear your heart out
    Just a crit­ic say­ing

  • John says:

    Randy Craw­ford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” was a favorite of my late wife and I, and one day I put the record on at the slow­er speed unin­ten­tion­al­ly and the result was beau­ti­ful. I still love to hear it at the slow speed!

  • jj says:

    Coun­try-ish singer Cam wrote an update, more from Joline’s per­spec­tive. ‘Diane’ is an incred­i­ble, pow­er­ful song. Much bet­ter is the video!

  • Steve Covello says:

    I was about to post exact­ly the same thing.

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