Dolly Parton stuns Springsteen and Mick Jagger with her performance of ‘Jolene’, 1977
We’re taking a trip to the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you one of the seminal moments in Dolly Parton’s illustrious career as she entertained a crowd that included Springsteen, Mick Jagger and John Belushi back in 1977.
1977 was a weird time in New York. It was the year that punk went mainstream, it saw infamous serial killer ‘Son of Sam’ terrorised New York City, and the city was, for the most part, entirely broke. Things were in need of an injection of joy. Enter Dolly Parton.
The singer had become a famous face in the gay scene. Her performances at San Francisco’s Boarding House and at L.A.’s Roxy with Linda Ronstadt and Barbara Streisand had confirmed that. But now Dolly was out on her own and had taken a giant step to her now-legendary status with her first number one album. It meant it was celebration time when she was invited by a small club in New York to perform for some legends.
CBGB and Max’s Kansas City may have been the place to head for sticky floors and safety pin jewellery. But for the star-studded performances of Parton, she needed something (a little) better. Instead, she performed at New York’s famous Bottom Line for an all-star audience that contained Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and John Belushi to name a few.
Nestled in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village the venue was a 400-seater place of hiding from the chaos outside. Studio 54 pumped cocaine-fuelled disco into the air while the snot and glue could be smelt within a two-mile radius of CBGB. The Bottom Line was the perfect mix of both.
So it proved for Parton who performed there on May 12th, 1977, the first of her three-night residency—a celebration of her first solo number one, New Harvest…First Gathering. Parton was keen to get out from the shadow of being one of Porter Wagoner’s “girl singers” and even saw her adopt a new band, Gypsy Fever for the performances. Judging by the clip below it was a good move.
As well as her charm filtering out across the star-studded audience like a sweet East-Tennessee perfume, the singer also delivered on her performance. Vocally she’s at her peak and provides one beautiful reason after another that her number one slot was well-earned. Meandering between upbeat foot-stompers and “plumb pitiful” ballads, Parton shows off the legend she was about to become.
As ever with a Parton show perhaps the crowning moment in this performance was her rendition of ‘Jolene’. We all the know the tale, we’ve probably all got our favourite versions of the song but listening to peak Dolly Parton sing it in a dingy club in the bowels of New York somehow feels the aptest.
Listen to the performance from Parton’s live album below and get ready to have the room feel very small of a sudden.