Ethics Hero: Dolly Parton

It seems that Dolly has integrity even if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does not.

Looking for publicity, or glitz, or something, the Cleveland-based Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominated Parton for the Class of 2022 even though she hasn’t ever recorded a song that could be classified as “rock” by any definition however loose. She has been, first and foremost, a country singer. She occasionally has crossed the line, whatever it is, into pop.

Parton withdrew her name from consideration, tweeting,

“Even though I am extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME, I don’t feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out. I do hope that the ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME will understand and be willing to consider me again – if I’m ever worthy. This has, however, inspired me to put out a hopefully great Rock ‘N’ Roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do! My husband is a total Rock ‘N’ Roll freak, and has always encouraged me to do one. I wish all of the nominees good luck and thank you again for the compliment. Rock on!”

It’s embarrassing that a nominee is more aware of the perils of an institution’s honor being contrived than the institution itself. Barack Obama could have saved the Nobel Peace Prize from a massive reduction in prestige if he had taken the same approach as Parton when he was absurdly nominated before he had done anything but get elected President. I can think of several admittees to the Baseball Hall of Fame who should have turned down that honor—Tony Perez and Harold Baines immediately come to mind.

She had no obligation to do so, of course, but I wish Dolly had also put in a plug for the Hall to finally admit Connie Francis, who recorded, rock, pop and country. Francis has been described as a female Bobby Darin (who is in the Rock Hall), a singer who dabbled in everything, and did everything well. She was a huge star in the 50s and early 60s, and unlike Parton, had two big rock and roll hits among her ventures in country, pop and novelty songs: “Stupid Cupid” (which made it to #16 on the Top 40) and “Lipstick On Your Collar,” which was #3)

Here is a comparison of her career to two male artists already in the Hall of Fame:

  • Fats Domino had thirty-five songs reach the Billboard Top 40. Eight of those made the Top 10 but none of them topped that chart.
  • Ricky Nelson also had thirty-five sides reach the Billboard Top 40. Eighteen of those made the Top 10 and two topped that chart.
  • Connie Francis had thirty-five sides reach the Billboard Top 40. Sixteen of those made the Top 10 and three topped that chart.

Well, it is enough that Dolly had the presence of mind to deal with the attempt to exploit her name by the Hall. But if she is ultimately admitted, the snubbing of Connie Francis will seem even more unjust than it already is.

14 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Dolly Parton

  1. Dolly Parton is a national treasure. “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap”

    Jerry Skinner is an amateur documentarian who made one about Connie Francis.

  2. Good on Dolly for taking her name out of contention; but she still has a long way to go to regain some of the respect she lost when she caved to the woke/BLM crowd in 2020 and renamed her two popular “Dixie Stampede” dinner attractions as “Dolly Parton’s Stampede,” and then pledged her support for BLM. Dolly claimed “innocent ignorance ” of how offensive the word “dixie” is to the perpetually offended. I suppose the same excuse applies to not knowing what BLM is really all about. In sum, Dolly is still an ethics weenie in my book.

    • Kinda seems like the Stampede change was a business decision (more fans without that ‘Dixie’ than with, and the BLM thing was more a support of the concept (as in, “Are our little white asses the only ones that matter?”).
      Regardless, one can be both an ethics dunce and an ethics hero, depending on the situation, and I believe her to be much more of an ethics hero. See, for example Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

  3. Our Esteeemed Ethicist wrote this:

    “Barack Obama could have saved the Nobel Peace Prize from a massive reduction in prestige if he had taken the same approach as Parton when he was absurdly nominated before he had done anything but get elected President.”

    I needed a good chuckle this morning. Yes, I did, and this sentence provided a good belly laugh. Barack Obama demonstrating humbleness and grace? Please. That guy truly believes the award was created for him and the other winners and nominees were just cover until he was eligible to get it.

    As for Parton, I am not surprised. She is a country western supernova because she knows how to write. She has wit and bite in her words. “Jolene” comes to mind:

    Your beauty is beyond compare
    With flaming locks of auburn hair
    With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green

    Your smile is like a breath of spring
    Your voice is soft like summer rain
    And I cannot compete with you

    Legend has it she and her husband went to a bank in Nashville and the teller flirted with her husband, inspiring the lyrics. That is brilliant writing.


  4. Part of me thinks this is exactly the right thing to do. Part of me thinks she should re-think.

    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (I visited a month or two ago; it’s not worth a visit TO Cleveland, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re already IN Cleveland for whatever reason) has no small number of country artists on its rolls – including but not limited to Chet Atkins, whose major connection to rock appears to be inspiring Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits; Bill Monroe – the creator of bluegrass, whose major connections are that Elvis recorded “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and the Grateful Dead covered several of his songs; and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, whose only connection appears to be inspiring Asleep at the Wheel, and they ain’t even in the Hall!

    There are a bunch of other artists – blues artists mostly, but not limited to that (there’s jazz artists too, such as Charlie Christian and Miles Davis) who really didn’t play rock either.

    When one considers the massive impact Ms. Parton has had on modern country music, I think a reasonable case could be made that she deserves to be in the Hall (after all, modern country is basically top-40 rock with a southern accent, a dog and a sixpack, even though she isn’t to blame for that aspect).

    But hey, if she wants to turn it down? Absolutely her call. Besides, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville is actually a cooler exhibit. The Rock Hall has a three-wheel motorcycle Elvis used. The Country Music Hall has one of his tricked out Cadillacs. 😉

  5. Was going to add, even though its called the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the induction criteria has no mention a requirement to perform in any genre that has the work “rock” in it. It basically says you have to be a big star. There are rappers and reggae artist in their, so it already doesn’t make much sense. Tupac and ABBA are in the hall. Those are not even rock adjacent.

  6. Rock and Roll and Country split from the same family in a long process spanning like 3 decades in early the mid-1900s (roughly 1920s – 1950s). During the split, it would have been hard to distinguish the two. Then the two were a kind of Byzantine Empire in the East and Latin Empire in the West both seen by citizens within as the original Roman Empire.

    They quite clearly diverged to opposite ends of the spectrum the next several decades. But it’s hard to deny that the two have been adopting each others subtleties since around 2000. It’s getting hard to distinguish the two in their mainstream forms – even while the extreme forms of rock and country are still clearly distinguishable.

  7. Looking at the list of other nominees there were only three that I recognized. I hold a very narrow definition of Rock and Roll being that American genre that existed before the British Invasion and all the head banging noise that followed. They need to change the name of their institution to reflect that it no longer honors rock and roll

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