How Beyoncé gave Dolly Parton’s classic song ‘Jolene’ her own signature twist

Beyoncé gives the classic country song her own spin, throwing it back to her 2016 song ‘Sorry’ and the infamous ‘Becky with the good hair’

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 29 March 2024 09:35 GMT
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Beyoncé has released her new album, Cowboy Carter, and one song causing a particular stir is the Texan-born star’s cover of “Jolene”, the signature hit song by the queen of country herself, Dolly Parton.

Originally released in 1973, “Jolene” is said by Parton to have been inspired by a red-headed bank clerk who flirted with her husband, Carl Dean, not long after they were married.

The song is performed from Parton’s perspective, as she pleads with “Jolene” not to steal away her man, acknowledging that her rival’s “beauty is beyond compare/ with flaming locks of auburn hair”.

“Please don’t take him just because you can,” Parton sings.

Beyoncé fans accurately predicted that the Lemonade artist was unlikely to beg another woman not to take her man, and have been rewarded with a twist on Parton’s original lyrics that make them that touch more threatening.

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene,” Beyoncé sings, via Genius, “I'm warnin’ you, don't come for my man (Jolene)/ Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene/ Don't take the chance because you think you can...”

Later, the song goes: “You’re beautiful beyond compare/ Takes more than beauty and seductive stares/ To come between a family and a happy man/ Jolene, I'm a woman too/ The games you play are nothing new/ So you don't want no heat with me, Jolene.”

Beyoncé in the artwork for ‘Cowboy Carter’ (AP)

She continues: “We've been deep in love for twenty years/ I raised that man, I raised his kids/ I know my man better than he knows himself (Hah, wait)/ I can easily understand why you're attracted to my man/ But you don't want this smoke, so shoot your shot with someone else (You heard me).”

An interlude from Parton herself before the song compares “Jolene” to “that hussy with the good hair you sing about”.

Beyoncé famously sent a warning shot to “Becky with the good hair” on her song “Sorry”, which featured on her 2016 album Lemonade.

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The song was widely interpreted to be about a woman Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, was rumoured to have had an affair with, as she sings: “Today I regret the night I put that ring on.”

“He only want me when I’m not there/ He better call Becky with the good hair,” she concludes.

Beyoncé sent a warning shot to ‘Becky with the good hair’ on her 2016 song, ‘Sorry’

Jay-Z appeared to confirm that he was unfaithful to his wife in 2017, telling The New York Times’ Style magazine that he had built up walls due to issues from his childhood, resulting in him shutting down and infidelity.

“The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone's face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself,” he said. “You have to survive, so you go into survival mode, and when you go into survival mode, what happens? You shut down all emotions.

“So, even with women, you gonna shut down emotionally, so you can't connect. In my case, like, it's deep. And then all the things happen from there: infidelity.”

He also addressed the situation on his own album, 4:44, rapping: “Yeah, I'll f*** up a good thing if you let me / Let me alone, Becky.”

Beyoncé and Jay-Z were married in 2008 (Getty Images)

Parton was one of the few prominent country stars to publicly support Beyoncé when she first announced her album, Cowboy Carter.

“I’m a big fan of Beyoncé and very excited that she’s done a country album,” the 77-year-old wrote on Instagram. “So congratulations on your Billboard Hot Country No 1 single. Can’t wait to hear the full album! Love, Dolly.”

You can read all the details so far about Cowboy Carter here.

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