Dolly Parton has long been considered a Queen in the world of Country Music. With millions of fans worldwide and a successful career spanning 50 years, no one would dispute that title either.
I first fell in love with this movie back when I was a young teen. Picture it, glasses, braces, and drama club secretary, yup, that was me. I was totally a drama club kid. I had a thing for old musicals. I look back now and fondly remember these movie marathons I would have with my grandmother, where we would sing and dance around the living room while she shared the classics with me.
Gram was a talented lady herself and very supportive of my interest in the arts, a stark opposition to my Dad’s disapproval and constant steering towards the more stable and finite studies of science or math.
I’ll never forget the afternoon Grams shared “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas” with me. We were both big Dolly Parton fans. It’s essentially a requirement if you’re going to be a resident of the proud state of Tennessee. When you grow up taking field trips to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, you’re bound to be a fan.
She also knew, in her infinite wisdom, that I would weep like a baby during this very scene and had the tissues close at hand.
I spent the next several weeks, singing and dancing around my Gram’s, trying to duplicate every note and every twirl. I remember even approaching our drama teacher about the possibility of putting on our own production of the musical.
Obviously, that idea was shut down pretty quick, didn’t quite fit the bill for our Bible-belt-centered High School Drama Department. However, my love of that musical, particularly Dolly and Burt’s performances in the film version, carries on.
Although my Gram has been gone for many years, I can’t help but feel her near when I hear a Dolly tune. This one, in particular, it takes me back to that afternoon on the couch when she sat poised, with tissue in hand, when this scene played out on the screen before us. Gram always did know just what I needed.
In this scene, Ed Earl, played by Burt Reynolds is attempting to propose to Dolly’s character, Miss Mona. Although she confesses to loving him “since she was 16 years old’, Mona protests. She tells Earl that no matter what, they will never find a way to make it work and breaks into this heart-wrenching version of her 1973 ballad.
Dolly wrote and recorded the original song in 1973, but the country version was released in 1974. Written as a farewell to her long-time musical partner and mentor of seven years, Porter Wagoner, after Dolly’s decision to pursue a solo career.
Parton’s version of “I Will Always Love You” was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart twice; a rare feat for artists. It first reached number one in June 1974, and then again in October 1982, with her re-recording for the soundtrack of the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The song also won Parton Female Vocalist of the Year at the 1975 CMA Awards.
Author Curtis W. Ellison stated that the song “speaks about the breakup of a relationship between a man and a woman that does not descend into unremitting domestic turmoil, but instead envisions parting with respect – because of the initiative of the woman”.