Beyoncé Reimagines Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” For New Album, ‘Cowboy Carter’

Dolly Parton Beyonce country music
Youtube/Dolly Parton/Beyoncé/Parkwood Entertainment

A completely new rendition of “Jolene.”

As you might’ve heard, Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album is out everywhere today, which has some country-inspired moments and features from icons like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, but is, for all intents and purposes, “not a country album, it’s a Beyoncé’ album.”

And for a little while now, rumors have been swirling that the pop/R&B superstar might be covering Dolly’s “Jolene,” and while she has some version and rough outline of the song on the tracklist, it’s definitely not the original for the most part. Dolly has also stated in the past that she “wanted” Bey to cover it.

Of course, Dolly’s famously penned her iconic hit after a woman at her local bank was getting a little too flirty with her husband, Carl Dean, not long after Carl and Dolly got married, though her real name wasn’t actually Jolene.

Dolly took mercy and renamed her for the song, and honestly, it’s probably a good thing that she did, because it’s one of the most recognizable country songs of all time and is of course synonymous with that name. It was included as the title track to Dolly’s 1974 album of the same name, and peaked at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Country songs chart as a single.

Beyoncé introduces “JOLENE” with a clip of Dolly talking called “DOLLY P,” where Dolly calls in to leave a message, saying:

“Hey Mrs. Honeybee, it’s Dolly P. You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? Reminded me of someone I knew back when.

Except she has flaming locks of auburn hair. Bless her heart. Just a hair of a different color, but it hurts just the same.”

That “hussy with the good hair” is a character Beyoncé fans know as “Becky,” who is featured on her 2016 Grammy-nominated Lemonade album, which focused on infidelity in her marriage with her husband Jay-Z:

Then, it goes straight into “JOLENE,” which is completely rewritten and much more modern than the version Queen Dolly put out in the 70’s. Beyoncé takes a much harder stance when it comes to her “Jolene,” though:

“There’s a thousand girls in every room
That act as desperate as you do
You a bird, go on and sing your tune, Jolene (What?)
I had to have this talk with you
‘Cause I hate to have to act the fool
Your peace depends on how you move, Jolene”

Beyoncé’s mom, Tina Knowles, has Louisiana Creole heritage, so fans are speculating it might a sort of tribute to her, too, because of this line… I’m not a Beyoncé expert, though, so I really can’t say one way or the other:

“Jolene, I know I’m a queen, Jolene
I’m still a Creole banjee bitch from Louisianne (Don’t try me)”

I’m sure Bey pulled inspiration from more than one place, because she really did recreate the entire song, while using the title “Jolene” and interpolating a lot of the original music.

Will a lot of traditionalist country fans hate that she did this to the song? I’m sure. Will a lot of younger country fans, and of course Beyoncé fans, think this was a brilliant way to reimagine such a beloved classic? Absolutely. Dolly herself signed off on it, and clearly wanted to be part of the album, which is important to consider here too.

Like I said, this isn’t a country album, or a country song, but it was clearly deeply inspired by the roots of the genre. I can appreciate this as a Beyoncé song and her attempt to honor the legends of the genre in some way, and I almost like it better knowing she didn’t just try to strictly cover “Jolene” Whitney Houston-style… let’s be real, no one will ever recreate it like that.

You can see what you think about it for yourself and listen here:

In addition, Willie is featured on two interlude radio segments called “SMOKE HOUR WILLIE NELSON,” which harken back to his early days as a radio DJ in Texas:

“Welcome to the ‘Smoke Hour’ on KNTRY Radio Texas. You know my name, no need to know yours.

Now for this next tune, I want y’all to sit back, inhale, and go to that good place your mind likes to wander off to. And if you don’t want to go, go find yourself a jukebox. Thank you.”

The second one goes like this:

“You’re tuned into KNTRY Radio Texas, home of the real deal. If there’s one thing you can take away from my set today, let it be this: Sometimes you don’t know what you like until someone you trust turns you on to some real good shit.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m here. Up next on the ‘Smoke Hour is ‘Just For Fun’ by Beyoncé.”

Honestly, it was pretty smart of her to bring in two of the remaining, living legends of country music to give their seal of approval:

And of course, I’ll leave you with this timeless country classic…


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock