During her decades-long career, Dolly Parton has had some memorable duet partners, among them Porter Wagoner and Kenny Rogers — but her new album, Rockstar, which releases on November 17, finds the icon welcoming an all-star cast of duets.
These legends include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Sting, Peter Frampton, Steve Perry, John Fogerty, Richie Sambora, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Miley Cyrus, Steven Tyler, Lynyrd Skynyrd, P!nk, Rob Halford and Nikki Sixx… just to name a few.
Rockstar showcases Parton’s distinctive voice in an entirely new light, illuminating her power in a way never heard before and also showcasing the nuances in her delivery as she pours her heart into each performance, but Parton admits it wasn’t without challenges.
In an interview with Woman’s World on November 16th, Parton confided, “I got to really challenge myself as a singer, and I really tested my voice. I didn’t know if I could do it great. That’s why I did 30 songs!” In her signature maximalist style, she knew she had to go big, and gave herself a lot of opportunities to get it right. Unsurprisingly, she nailed every single one.
The 30-song collection is the country music icon’s 49th album and finds Parton putting her distinctive stamp on some of the most beloved classic rock songs in history.
“I’m so excited to present my first Rock and Roll album Rockstar,” Dolly Parton shared on her website. “I am very honored and privileged to have worked with some of the greatest iconic singers and musicians of all time and to be able to sing all the iconic songs throughout the album was a joy beyond measure. I hope everybody enjoys the album as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together.”
Why Dolly was called to make a rock album
The inspiration for the new project came from Parton’s induction last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though she initially declined the nomination, Parton was still voted into the Hall and is very appreciative of the honor.
“There are more people out there that spent their whole life in rock and roll that I felt deserved it more than me,” Parton told Kelleigh Bannen on What Would Dolly Do? Radio on Apple Music 1. “I thought, ‘Well, I didn’t understand all the reasons they give it to you,’ but I still say, ‘If you’re going to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you need to earn it,’ which is what prompted me to go ahead and do the rock and roll album,”
Despite not planning to do the album, Parton admits, “I think it’s some of my best work, but timing is everything. I’ve often talked about doing it but, at my age, chances are I would not have done it. When they wanted to put me in the Hall of Fame, I didn’t want to go. They put me in anyway, so then I’m like my daddy, I don’t want nothing that I don’t earn. That’s when I thought, ‘Well, it’s now or never.’”
Setting the rock n’ roll world on fire
The 77-year-old legend gave fans their first taste of the project when she released the lead single, “World on Fire,” earlier this year. Parton delivered a stunning performance of the song on the 58th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in May, which she co-hosted with Garth Brooks.
Her charismatic performance featured a flowing dress that covered nearly the whole stage before being ripped away to reveal her sultry black leather outfit.
“This is a song I felt very inspired to write,” Parton says of “World on Fire.” “I think it speaks about everything and to everyone this day and time. I hope it is something that will touch you and maybe touch enough people to want to make a change for the better.”
Dolly Parton’s inspiration and challenges
When it came time for Dolly Parton to start selecting songs and guest artists for Rockstar, she says she leaned on her husband Carl for inspiration. “I just picked the songs that I knew Carl loved and some songs that I loved that I thought I could sing well,” she said on What Would Dolly Do? Radio.
“I didn’t even know when I recorded the album that I was going to have all these artists. I pretty much had recorded and picked the songs before I thought, ‘I could get so-and-so. What if I did this? What if I did that?’… And so, I just thought maybe I’d get, if anything, one or two people. Then, all of a sudden, it just kept growing.”
Dolly Parton Rockstar duets behind-the-scenes
While choosing a favorite duet on Parton’s new album is akin to choosing a favorite star in they sky, these six songs truly gave us chills. Here a few behind-the-scenes secrets about each and what Parton herself had to say.
“Let It Be” (feat. Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr with Peter Frampton & Mick Fleetwood)
Like most of us, Parton has long been a huge Beatles fan most of her life, so it only made sense to bring in the greats. “Well, does it get any better than singing ‘Let It Be’ with Paul McCartney who wrote the song? Not only that, he played piano,” Parton said in a tweet. “Well, it did get even better when Ringo Starr joined in on drums, Peter Frampton on guitar and Mick Fleetwood playing percussion. I mean, seriously, how much better does it get?”
The title track of The Beatles’ final album, released in 1970, “Let It Be” is one of McCartney’s signature anthems. The song is deeply personal to McCartney, as he wrote it following a dream in which he saw his mother, who had died when he was just 14, and heard her say the title phrase.
Parton revealed that she originally recorded the song solo, but then thought it would be cool to get the two surviving Beatles involved, and reached out to them with a “love letter” saying how much she admired them and asked them to join her on the track. And the result is a beautiful new rendition.
“Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” (Feat. Sir Elton John)
“I wanted certain artists to be on [the album] — for instance, I love Elton John. Every time we’ve ever done anything together or been on the same show, we are backstage singing old-timey country songs,” she told What Would Dolly Do? Radio. “He loves country music, and I love ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.’ And so, I was going to record that.”
“Wrecking Ball” (Feat. Miley Cyrus)
Dolly Parton features lots of girl power on Rockstar, including her duet with her goddaughter Miley Cyrus on the young entertainer’s hit, “Wrecking Ball.”
Parton and Cyrus previously performed “Wrecking Ball” last year on New Year’s Eve for Cyrus’ New Year’s Eve Party in Miami. “After we did that, for the album I thought, ‘I’m gonna sing my version of ‘Wrecking Ball,’ which is not that different from hers,” Parton recently told ABC’s Robin Roberts.
“But then I’ll do the lead on it and then have her do a duet, and then we can exchange the harmonies and kind of incorporate ‘I Will Always Love You‘ again. So that’s one of my favorite things in the whole album.”
“I love her like a child. I love her like my own,” Parton continued talking about Cyrus. “So when we get a chance to sing together, we really mean it. And I think our voices are very compatible, because she’s heard me all of her life. So all those little things that I do, she’s learned to do.”
“What’s Up?” (Feat. Linda Perry)
Among the other powerful Dolly Parton Rockstar duets is her collaboration with Linda Perry on “What’s Up?” Perry, who wrote the poignant song, first had a hit with it when her band, 4 Non Blondes, released the song in 1993 and took it to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Following the breakup of 4 Non Blondes, Perry became an accomplished songwriter and producer, working with powerful female performers like P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Jewel, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, Celine Dion and many more.
There’s serious mutual admiration between Parton and Perry. In a statement on her website, Parton said, “First of all, I love Linda Perry. Second of all, I love this song written by Linda. Third of all, I love being a part of this video to try to make people think about what’s going on in this world today.”
Perry responded, “How is one supposed to react when the greatest and most prolific songwriter in the world wants to cover a song YOU wrote? [Dolly’s] version of ‘What’s Up?’ is so good. Her spin on it made me feel like it was her song.”
“Bygones” (Feat. Rob Halford, Nikki Sixx and John 5)
“It is one of my very favorites on the whole album,” Parton said in a statement. “The song fits with so many couples and coupling my voice with Rob, one of my all-time favorites, made it even more special.”
While Dolly’s country glam may initially seem at odds with the epic shredding of Judas Priest and Motley Crue, she got along famously with the heavy metal gods. After this Dolly Parton Rockstar duets, Halford even joined Parton in her star-studded performance of “Jolene” at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!
In an interview, Halford called her “absolutely incredible” and said he was a “total fanboy,” while Nikki Sixx described her as “a class act” and John 5 recalled “listening to Dolly ever since I can remember.”
“What Has Rock And Roll Ever Done for You” (feat. Stevie Nicks with Waddy Wachtel)
Dolly got not one but two members of Fleetwood Mac to guest on her album. The band’s drummer, Mick Fleetwood, appears on “Let It Be,” while singer Stevie Nicks is featured on this track, “What Has Rock and Roll Ever Done for You.”
Nicks originally wrote the song for Fleetwood Mac decades ago, but it was never officially released. As female singer/songwriters in the male-dominated world of ’70s music, Nicks and Parton clearly had much to bond over, and Nicks personally requested they record this song together.
Nicks wrote the song about an unnamed fellow rocker she had an affair with, and told Parton, “I just love this song. I’d like to do it just to commemorate that time in my life and that person.” Guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who also appears on the track, first played with Nicks 50 years ago, on the 1973 album Buckingham Nicks, and contributed to many of her solo albums.
Clearly, the song has a long history behind it, and is deeply personal to Nicks. Nicks and Parton make for a truly dynamic duo — not have the two women been absolute musical icons for decades, they’re also both equally beloved by younger audiences!
The duets that weren’t meant to be
Parton wasn’t able to get everyone on the album she was hoping for. Chris Stapleton joins her on Bob Seger’s classic, “Night Moves,” because Seger was reportedly having vocal trouble at the time. Mick Jagger couldn’t participate due to scheduling conflicts, so Parton recruited P!nk and Brandi Carlile for “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
But we are far from disappointed! She has crafted a monumental collection that not only includes Dolly Parton Rockstar duets, it introduces nine impressive new songs, as well as reviving some of rock music’s most beloved classics. Rockstar showcases Parton’s distinctive voice in an entirely new light, illuminating her power in a way never heard before and also showcasing the nuances in her delivery as she pours her heart into each performance.
What’s next for Dolly
Parton is never one to accomplish one challenge and rest on her laurels. She recently released a new book, Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones, which highlights her unique style and her lifelong love of fashion. She is also working on a Broadway show about her life, which she hopes to have ready in 2025 and is planning to record a new gospel album.
“One of the things I want to do next and to leave for my legacy is that ultimate great gospel album, and done up in the same way that I’ve done this rock album,” she said on What Would Dolly Do? Radio.
“To do that great uplifting album…gospel might not be the right word, although we will do gospel in it, but more uplifting, inspirational songs, I want to leave that behind. Well, who knows if it’ll be the last one, but I definitely want to have that one as one of the last things that I do. In fact, I may start on that one before I do anything else.”
Check out the Rockstar track list:
1. Rockstar (special guest Richie Sambora)
2. World on Fire
3. Every Breath You Take (feat. Sting)
4. Open Arms (feat. Steve Perry)
5. Magic Man (feat. Ann Wilson with special guest Howard Leese)
6. Long As I Can See The Light (feat. John Fogerty)
7. Either Or (feat. Kid Rock)
8. I Want You Back (feat. Steven Tyler with special guest Warren Haynes)
9. What Has Rock And Roll Ever Done For You (feat. Stevie Nicks with special guest Waddy Wachtel)
10. Purple Rain
11. Baby, I Love Your Way (feat. Peter Frampton)
12. I Hate Myself For Loving You (feat. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts)
13. Night Moves (feat. Chris Stapleton)
14. Wrecking Ball (feat. Miley Cyrus)
15. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (feat. P!nk & Brandi Carlile)
16. Keep On Loving You (feat. Kevin Cronin)
17. Heart Of Glass (feat. Debbie Harry)
18. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (feat. Elton John)
19. Tried To Rock And Roll Me (feat. Melissa Etheridge)
20. Stairway To Heaven (feat. Lizzo & Sasha Flute)
21. We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You
22. Bygones (feat. Rob Halford with special guests Nikki Sixx & John 5)
23. My Blue Tears (feat. Simon Le Bon)
24. What’s Up? (feat. Linda Perry)
25. You’re No Good (feat. Emmylou Harris & Sheryl Crow)
26. Heartbreaker (feat. Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo)
27. Bittersweet (feat. Michael McDonald)
28. I Dreamed About Elvis (feat. Ronnie McDowell with special guest The Jordanaires)
29. Let It Be (feat. Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr with special guests Peter Frampton & Mick Fleetwood)
30. Free Bird (feat. Lynyrd Skynyrd with special guests Artimus Pyle and The Artimus Pyle Band)
For more on Dolly, keep reading!