A recent coffee-table book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, written by the singer with Robert K Oermann, packs in a great number of her words, Parton’s own recollections about their genesis and afterlives, including that of the first draft of Coat of Many Colors, one of her defining songs. Ironically, given that it’s a song about her poor mother stitching rags together to make Parton a winter coat, it is scribbled on a dry cleaning receipt of Wagoner’s.
The book is adorned with butterfly motifs, but weighs nearly half a stone: lush, costly, heavy with photographs. Fair enough: Dolly Parton is 74 and a joy for ever. Here’s a songwriter of genius, Glastonbury headliner, rags-to-rhinestones global philanthropist, high priestess of warm-hearted kitsch and one-liners (“It takes a lotta money to look this cheap”). We fans, weary of sophisticated spite, often turn to her twanging tunes and rawhide emotion: is there not, deep down in all of us, a tiny secret dreaming part that is forever on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, duetting with Conway Twitty above a sea of stetsons and achy-breaky hearts?