This Day In History: October 15

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On October 15, 1973—four months before the release of her 13th studio album, “Jolene”—country star Dolly Parton releases the record’s titular song with the memorable refrain “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Joleeeeene.”

In Parton’s self-penned lyrics, she described an auburn-haired, fair-skinned beauty named Jolene, and pleaded with her not to take Parton’s man. The chorus begins with the quadruple Jolene refrain, then “I’m beggin’ of you, please don’t take my man.” Then, after another Jolene refrain comes this: “Please don’t take him just because you can.”

The sensational song with 200 words and a haunting melody became a No. 1 country hit in both the U.S. and Canada.

Parton has said that the inspiration for Jolene came from a young redheaded girl, about 8 years old, who asked Parton for her autograph.

“I said, ‘Well, you’re the prettiest little thing I ever saw. So what is your name?’” And the girl replied, “Jolene,” Parton said in an NPR interview. “And I said, ‘Jolene. Jolene. Jolene. Jolene.’ I said, ‘That is pretty. That sounds like a song. I’m going to write a song about that.”

The song’s lyrics were inspired by a redheaded bank teller that kept flirting with Parton’s husband, Carl Dean. “She got this terrible crush on my husband,” Parton told NPR. “And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us. She had everything I didn’t, like legs—you know, she was about 6 feet tall. And had all that stuff that some little short, sawed-off honky like me don’t have … So no matter how beautiful a woman might be, you’re always threatened by certain … You’re always threatened by other women, period.”

Rolling Stone ranked “Jolene” as No. 63 in its 2021 The 500 Greatest Songs of all Time. More than 30 singers have done a cover of “Jolene,” including Jack White, whose “Jolene” cover is a staple at The White Stripes concerts.

Parton—a larger-than-life celebrity as a musician, actress, businesswoman, and philanthropist—started in country music, but became more mainstream with two No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “9 to 5,” which debuted in 1980, and “Islands in the Stream, a 1983 duet with Kenny Rogers.