Dolly Parton’s America

I was reminded at a party this weekend that I promised to write about more than just music. I am apparently doing less well at that than I was hoping. I even have photos for multiple posts that I took months ago and then never wrote them. I will get to them eventually. For now, I’m going to sort of write about something that’s not about music in that it’s about a podcast that is related somewhat to music. Baby steps people.

I have been meaning to write about the Dolly Parton’s America podcast for awhile now and just haven’t done it. I figured I needed to get my act in gear though because spoiler alert it’s going to show up in my annual most memorable pop culture post. I didn’t want to write about there without first having dedicated a post to it. I was sort of hoping to wait and write about it after the final episode, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to drop before I would have wanted to have this post written.

Dolly Parton’s America as you’ve obviously gathered by now is a podcast. It’s produced by WNYC Studios and hosted by Jad Abumrad, who is also the host of RadioLab. He was able to conduct some extensive interviews with Dolly thanks to a connection he had through is father, who was once Dolly Parton’s doctor. In total it’s going to be nine episodes long. At the time of this writing 7 of them have aired, plus one bonus episode on music inspired by the podcast.

If you’re a Dolly fan it’s not a podcast in which you’re likely to find out anything you didn’t already know about Dolly. Jad Abumarad uses his interviews with Dolly Parton as a jumping off point to take a more sociological view of some bigger issues as well as Dolly and her career. For instance he examines how Dolly manages to appeal to a large cross section of Americans who you usually don’t see in the same spaces, especially in our currently divided country. He looks at things like what does it mean to be a feminist when many of your actions are seen as feminist but you refuse to call yourself one as Dolly does? Is it okay to not take a larger stand on things you personally believe in and does that calculus change if it’s due to personal beliefs or a business decision? Is Dolly Parton lifting up the poor Appalachian area she came from or exploiting it? Those are just some of the questions addressed in the podcast. As someone who loves Dolly and is a sociologist at heart it’s right up my alley. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Even if you don’t care for Dolly Parton’s music I still think it’s well worth a listen.

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