Parton was talking about how her mother fostered her love of music by singing old folk tunes, many of which were sad, or as Parton put it, “plum pitiful.” One of those was “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” (a famous version of which was recorded by the Carter Family), a tune about a woman who’s left at the alter and decides to kill herself.
Parton then casually broke into the song a cappella, and by the time she finished the second verse, she was quipping at Colbert, “Aw, you’re crying?” Then instead of letting up just sang more. When she finally finished, Parton said, “So I better hush before you cry yourself to death and you can’t finish the show!”
Colbert, still wiping his eyes and trying to laugh, said in return, “Like a lot of Americans, I’m under a lot of stress right now, Dolly! You got under my trip wire right there, that was pretty beautiful.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Parton spoke about her upcoming book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, and her history as a songwriter. And in the second part of the conversation, she spoke about the songs she’s been writing lately, including some about peoples’ struggles during the pandemic, and revealed her own top three favorite Dolly Parton songs: “Coat of Many Colors,” “I Will Always Love You,” and her deep cut, “Down From Dover.”