Love has long been the prime source of inspiration for songwriters, scribes and poets, but few approach the topic with the wisdom and experience Dolly Parton brings to the table. After all, Parton celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary to her husband Carl Dean in May – a commendable milestone, especially for someone in the entertainment industry. That special occasion inspired her new album Pure & Simple, a joint venture between Dolly Records and Sony Music Nashville, which releases today (August 19th).
“I was just trying to think about all the different colors of love through the years,” Parton says. “I thought, ‘Well I’m going to write about mine and Carl’s relationship. It’s just a pure and simple relationship,’ so it started with that and then I thought, ‘Well why don’t I just write a whole album of love songs?'”
Parton’s goal was to cover the many facets of love and she feels she’s succeeded. “I covered every type of romance, like the friends with benefits the song ‘Outside Your Door’ and I felt like I wrote the ultimate cheating song in ‘Anything That Feels That Right, Can’t Be That Wrong’ so I wasn’t just writing for myself, but just all about love. I thought love would be the great theme and I did write several about mine and Carl’s relationship.”
Parton cites “Forever Love,” “Say Forever You’ll Be Mine” and “Tomorrow is Forever” as songs she wrote specifically for her husband. “‘Forever You’ll Be Mine’ and ‘Tomorrow is Forever’ – I wrote those back in the early, early days of our marriage,” she says. “I had those two songs on albums years ago back in the Seventies. So I just pulled those out again because I thought they were precious.”
“Forever Love” is a more recent composition. “That’s the one I considered our wedding song because we got remarried on May 30th, on our 50th anniversary,” she says of renewing her vows to Dean nearly three months ago. “I thought I’d have to have a little wedding song, so that was the one. I purposely tried to write a wedding song and I thought it would be a good wedding song for anybody’s wedding.” Parton’s recent nuptials were low key, just a small ceremony at her Nashville home.
“I got all dressed up in the most beautiful gown you’ve ever seen and dressed that husband of mine up. He looked like a handsome dude out of Hollywood,” she says with a laugh. “We had a few family and friends around. We didn’t plan anything big at all because we didn’t want any kind of strain, any kind of tension, any kind of commotion, so we planned it cleverly and carefully. We just had a simple little ceremony at our chapel at our place. We just had just a few people who needed to be there to make sure they got the pictures and the few things that we needed. We just had fun with it.”
Though her marriage provided material for the bulk of the new album, Parton also drew inspiration from seeing her sister fall in love again. “I wrote ‘Sixteen’ based on a new romance of one of my sisters who had a couple of failed relationships and just thought she was never meant to have true love,” Parton explains. “She said, ‘I’ll never love again. I’ll never find anybody’ but she did find someone and they just act like two teenage kids, like they’ve never been in love before. I watch them and I get such a kick to see how happy they are and I think, ‘God they think they are 16! They are acting like they are 16!’ I thought, ‘Oh what a cute idea!'”
Parton says her approach to songwriting has remained pretty much the same over the years, although the time she has to commit to the craft has become more scarce. “I write like when I started because I just write whatever I feel,” says Parton, who self-produced Pure & Simple. “I just sit down wherever I am, in the middle of whatever I’m doing if an idea comes to me and write it, but on this album it was real easy album to put together. I’d love to have time to take the next two weeks to go to the lake or to the Tennessee mountain home to write songs, but anymore I don’t have that luxury.”
Parton has been busy sharing her new music on the road this summer, and her Pure & Simple tour continues into December. She will also appear in the sequel to her hit NBC TV movie Coat of Many Colors, which will air this holiday season. The same cast will be back again in Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. Parton will be portraying her hometown’s painted lady, the woman who inspired her colorful persona.
Just what keeps her working so hard on so many different projects at this stage in her career? “I have to get up and go to work because I’ve kind of worked myself into a corner,” she says. “I’ve made all these dreams come true and now I have to be responsible for it. I have to think of myself as a working girl. You don’t just get a dream come true and then let it go. You’ve got to get out and work it and decide how to rework it and how many other areas you can branch out into, so I just love what I do. I love to work and I’ve got new dreams every day.”