1st Photo: Dolly Parton / TikTok 2nd Photo: American Songwriter / YouTube
After much anticipation, Dolly Parton released her first rock and roll album, Rockstar, on November 17. The album comes following Parton’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022.
Initially, Parton attempted to decline her nomination, believing she wasn’t worthy of Rock Hall recognition. However, upon understanding that the Hall celebrates influential artists across all genres, she reconsidered her decision.
Hinting at the thrilling project back in 2022, Dolly revealed that she was inspired to, “Put out a hopefully great rock ‘n’ roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do!”
Well, it’s officially here, and we couldn’t be more excited!
In a new Instagram post, Dolly posted, “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the ‘Rockstar’ album and I can’t tell you how happy I am that it’s finally here to be released! I really had a wonderful time working with all these iconic artists on the record and all these iconic musicians. Not to mention all these great iconic songs that I think everybody will love hearing again. I just hope you enjoy my version of them!”
Dolly Parton shared how she incorporated Ronnie Van Zant’s voice into her cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Free Bird” for her upcoming album Rockstar. In an interview with Hits Daily Double, the country legend explained the process behind using Van Zant’s vocals in her rendition.
“That song really has a history to it. We lost a couple of the guys right after I recorded it,” Parton reminisced, making reference to guitarist Gary Rossington, who died in March. “Then Ronnie Van Zant’s widow allowed us to use his voice on our record.”
Parton found it particularly meaningful to use the original vocals of “Free Bird” because it added a unique and authentic touch to her cover, connecting her rendition to the iconic sound of the original recording.
“I was so happy we got to use his real voice. They just dropped it in the way they manipulate those things now. It made it so special,” the singer explained. “I get chills every time I hear it. I’d already sung my version, and I didn’t know his voice enough, but then our phrasing turned out to be almost just exact when we were singing on the song. That’s such a classic. I remember getting so lost in the music, just singing wherever I felt it.”
Parton’s 11-minute cover, which closes the album, came about via her bandleader and producer Kent Wells, though it had initially been earmarked for another project entirely.
“Kent Wells has been my guitar player, arranger/producer and bandleader for thirty-some years. When I was getting ready to do Rockstar, he was busy producing an album for Lynyrd Skynyrd. They knew Kent worked with me, so they asked if I would sing on a new version of Free Bird. And it turned out really good. Later on I said to Kent: ‘What about putting Free Bird on my rock album too, if we get permission from them to do it?’ So that’s what we did. Then Ronnie Van Zant’s widow said that she’d let us use his voice on the track. She wouldn’t allow Lynyrd Skynyrd to do it, but she said: ‘I’ll do it for Dolly!’ So we got to use Ronnie on there. We had already recorded it, but his phrasing was so simple that they just dropped his vocal in.”
Dolly Parton throwing in Ronnie Van Zant’s original vocals in her “Free Bird” cover is like her tipping her hat to the classic track. It’s a surprise collab that shouts out Lynyrd Skynyrd’s timeless music, showing off Parton’s skills in a whole new light.
Listen to Dolly’s rendition of “Free Bird” with Ronnie Van Zan’t vocals below!