Does Dolly Rock? Alice Cooper and Billy F. Gibbons Count The Ways
When Dolly Parton wasn’t so sure she was qualified for the Rock Hall, we weren’t so sure she was right. But wanting to do our proper research, experts were enlisted. Reaching out to a couple of iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, true individualists and men who are consumed by music, ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons and Alice Cooper weighed in on the righteousness of Dolly going into the Rock Hall.
For the Texas bluesman and guitarist, he understood the Southern grit, the funkiness of real life and the core values of her writing. The immediate response to the request elicited a response saying, “We love the ’Doll’”
For the Detroit shock rocker who moved the Tropicana Hotel to chase the dream, he came to Parton via the theater of the mind, the cultivation of persona and the reality of narrative to reinforce one’s individuality. A longtime compadre of surrealist Salvador Dali, artist is imperative to Cooper, whether it’s black leather or rhinestones or brustrokes and melting tableau.
Now that Parton is inducted, here’s their take. Ironically, they landed on the same definitive song, one that was shared by the 2022 Class as the all-jam finale.
Pollstar: What makes Dolly Parton rock?
Billy F. Gibbons: Just look at her! She’s country music’s version of Keith Richards. She certainly has the look, the longevity, the attitude, the talent, and, as a performer, songwriter and singer, DP endures. To paraphrase the late James Brown, “Mama don’t take no mess.”
At heart, she’s a rocker in all those ways and holds her own with just about anybody out there. One of her first single releases was “What Do You Think About Loving’”; it has a kind of Brenda Lee party feel with a June Carter growl and is pretty much a rockin’ rave up.
Alice Cooper: “Dolly rocks because she flies in the face of convention. Rock ’n’ Roll is about rebellion and doing the opposite of what people expect. She does what she wants and she enjoys what she does. I think that’s how she’s had such longevity, she has the same rock ’n’ roll spirit that all the greats have to keep going.”
What three things define what makes Dolly Parton so magical?
AC: Well, there’s really one thing, and it’s that she can do it all – write, sing, act – and do it all with joy for decades. Her commitment to helping her hometown community and to giving kids by the thousands books to read is another thing.
Really, the biggest thing about her is her heart.”
BFG: The voice, the hair and the bod. There, I said it!
What did you think the first time you heard Dolly Parton sing?
BFG: I watched her on the original syndicated Porter Wagoner TV show. Although blues and R&B were my thing, I was a huge country music fan – and when I saw her I was instantly fixated. She really didn’t look like a country singer… She was more in the mode of The Ronettes or the Shangri-Las, and, as Leiber and Stoller have taught, “Baby, that is rock ’n’ roll.”
AC: I thought, “Wow! Can she sing!” She’s created this character, too. I always thought Dolly and Alice should do a duet. Just think of it!! Alice and Dolly… What a pair!
And if you have a favorite song, what is it?
AC: I really like the story of “Jolene.” I can’t remember another song where a woman speaks to a rival and lays her emotions and feelings out there like that.
That song is heart wrenching and powerful and very clever. And – if you haven’t listened to that song at 33.5 speed you absolutely should – it is even better!
BFG: Gotta go with “Jolene.” It’s a song of desperation that could very well have been at home on “Let It Bleed.”
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Pollstar Cover Story: Why Dolly Parton Belongs In The Rock Hall