A Pop (well, bluegrass) Quiz

Statement: Man, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard the Dolly Parton version of John Lennon’s "Imagine."

Question: Do you think I’m being sarcastic or genuine in the statement above?

Extra Credit: Does your answer change if in the statement above I replace the words "John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’" with "Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven?’"

Remember to show your work.  

23 Comments on “A Pop (well, bluegrass) Quiz”

  1. Well, I would hope you’re being sarcastic. ‘Imagine’ might not be so bad, but the sample of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was pretty lame.

    But then, I tend to dislike remakes in general – for example, I can’t stand Metallica’s version of ‘Turn the Page’…

  2. With the right piece, Dolly is an INCREDIBLE vocalist.

    I dont much think either of those songs are the right piece however.

    She also has a long history of excellent covers, and traditional tunes.

    I’ve heard some of the cuts from the album, including “Imagine”, and I have to say “sarcastic”, but her version of “Me and Bobby Mcgee” with Kris Kristofferson is jsut great.

  3. Put me down for ‘sarcastic’.

    I haven’t listened to much Dolly Parton, so I realize that my argument may be self-immolating, but my general sense is that Dolly Parton is to bluegrass as Pat Boone is to heavy metal, or as Celine Dion is to any form of meaningful music.

    Yes, Dolly’s rich and successful and all, but covering “Imagine” and “Stairway to Heaven” doesn’t make her edgy. It’s just kind of weird.

  4. I agree with Chris Byrne that with the right material Dolly is incredible. But from the little snippet I heard of “Imagine”, I’ll go with sarcastic. I like her version of “Stairway to Heaven,” but it was so different from the original that it helped you see the song in a new way. The problem with her version of “Imagine” it sounds too much the same as the original. The song is too associated with John Lennon for that approach to work. My $.02.
    I can’t wait for the pop quiz answers ;-) and regardless, I’m buying her version of “Where Do the Children Play?”

  5. Dolly Parton isn’t bluegrass. She’s country. This is not nearly enough twangy banjo for bluegrass.

    I’m betting “sarcastic”. Parton has a lovely voice when there’s someone else there to keep her selling instincts in check, but this is pure pop country, in other words twangy with an exaggerated accent and Prozac-chipper. Not a good match for either song.

    Blues Traveler has a lovely cover of Imagine, and if we’re talking country I’d pay money to hear Emmylou Harris do either song. But these two covers are just slightly less horrible than the upbeat chipper country cover of Janis Joplin’s “Take a Piece of My Heart” that’s floating around contaminating jukeboxes everywhere.

  6. Well, keeping in mind this is separate from the question posed above, Dolly is in fact not a dabbler when it comes to bluegrass — that and old school Country is where she comes as a singer and a song writer; and her recent bluegrass albums, beginning with 1999’s The Grass is Blue, have been some of the most critically acclaimed of her works in some time.

    It’s also worth noting that while Dolly’s public image is (rather intentionally) overblown, the woman is also genuinely one hell of a songwriter and businesswoman — all the Joss Whedon fans here may be fascinated to know that it’s Dolly Parton’s production company that produced “Buffy” and “Angel” — and of course as others have noted, with the right material, her voice is spectacular.

    I actually respect Dolly quite a bit, so that should add a whole ‘nother layer of consideration for the “sarcastic or not” question above.

  7. Dear John,
    That is not an answer to your question. Nor is it a response to your opening statement. Consider it a firm objection to the simple concept of this post. I have not listened to the sample pieces of music. I will not listen to the sample pieces of music. You say, “Dolly Parton.”
    I say, “no.”



  8. Hyperbolic, perhaps, but not sarcastic, is my take.

    I just want to hear her “Both Sides Now.” That’s one hell of a song, and it just might fit her nicely.

  9. I rather enjoy Dolly’s cover of “Stairway to Heaven”. But then again, I have a fondness for really strange covers–The Connells’ cover of “Insane in the Brain” comes to mind as my most recent discovery. There’s also an Ani DiFranco/Jackie Chan duet which is rather…interesting.

  10. Dolly is in fact not a dabbler when it comes to bluegrass — that and old school Country is where she comes as a singer and a song writer

    I was aware of Dolly’s roots. The Pat Boone comparison was, I realize, a poor one, but I don’t listen to a lot of popular music, so I’m handicapped. And I have a nasty cold.

    Dolly’s a smart woman, there’s no question about that. She knows what she’s selling, and she has sold a lot of it. The woman knows where her market is. That’s why I made the comparison to Boone.

    I remember hearing some very early Dolly Parton, and being impressed by her vocal ability and soulfulness. I cannot say that I have been stirred by anything I’ve heard since.

    She’s rather like Celine Dion, who once possessed a wonderful voice and a gift for performance, but who now records overwrought pap because it sells better.

    However, I like bluegrass, and will on your recommendation give Parton’s recent BG recordings a chance.

  11. I’m waiting for Dolly to either cover Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday Someway” or the Magnetic Fields’ “I’m Sorry I Love You,” although the last is a bit of a cheat since I think Stephen Merritt’s said he wrote it with her in mind.

  12. Okay, after listening to her cover of “Imagine” in its entirety, I’m going to take a risk and guess you were actually sincere.

    And “Stairway?” Wow. I’m playing it again as I type this. It’s better than expected; I’ll guess sincere for this, too.

    So when do we find out your true answer?

    (I had high hopes for “Both Sides Now,” but was mildly disappointed. The original version seemed sweeter; Dolly’s was a bit too peppy.)

  13. Interestingly, “Imagine” is one of the songs covered by the hopefuls on that reality show, Rockstar:INXS, this summer. Jordis Unga, one of the final five contestants, and a powerful, well-trained voice, did wonders with the song. She finally lost on the show, IMHO, because her voice was too well trained, not really rock enough for the band.

    That said, my initial reaction to both of the quesitons is that you’re being sarcastic. And I say this being a fan of Dolly’s voice in general. Not that either song is bad, but that’s it’s just different enough to be off-putting.

  14. Jeeeeeeeez….. Now I will never get that thing out of my head. Thanks John. Stairway sucked beyond belief. Excuse me while i go get a drill so I can remove it from my skull.

  15. Here I am, late to the party as usual. Anyway, I’d say genuine on both counts, John.

    That wasn’t my first, kneejerk, reaction to your question however. But here we have a good-ole Southern country gal (*God’s* country, to the point) singing, “Imagine there’s no heaven – It’s easy if you try”. Well, what can I say?

    ‘Stairway to Heaven’, is even more revealing considering the furore this song created amongst far-right Christians (“hidden Satanic messages” and all that guff). So now I’m thinking this lady’s ba**s are bigger than her overblown, er, um, ‘personality’.

    Never thought I’d see D.P, like that. Thanks.

    Nice tune too.

  16. Just to answer my own question:

    I’m being sarcastic to the first one. Dolly’s version is nicely song but horribly over-produced, as most cover versions of “Imagine” are — if ever there was a song that required simple, tasteful and spare production (as on the original) this is it.

    On the other hand, Dolly’s version of “Stairway” is awesome.

  17. I believe Dolly Parton is the second most published songwriter of all time, with Bob Dylan being the first. I think that came out of ‘Rolling Stone,’ but it’s possible that it’s bar gossip. I can’t remember :/.

    I didn’t care too much for her cover of ‘Imagine,’ but I really liked her cover of ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’

    I think she did a good job of covering ‘Crimson and Clover,’ too. I usually don’t like covers of Joan Jett tunes (does anyone remember when Britney Spears destroyed ‘I Love Rock and Roll’), but I don’t mind Dolly’s version.

    Just my $0.02.

  18. To the poster way at the top: didn’t Kris Kristofferson write “Me and Bobby Mcgee”? If so, can you consider a version that he sings a cover?

  19. Pete wrote: “I think she did a good job of covering ‘Crimson and Clover,’ too. I usually don’t like covers of Joan Jett tunes (does anyone remember when Britney Spears destroyed ‘I Love Rock and Roll’), but I don’t mind Dolly’s version.”

    Joan Jett & The Blackhearts DID do a version of “Crimson & Clover” (I believe it was on their first album), however, Tommy James & The Shondells originally did the song in 1968, and became a hit in 1969.

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