The Queen of Country Music gives a spellbinding performance on the BBC’s ‘Parkinson’ show.
Michael Parkinson hosted a chat show on the BBC from 1971 to 1982, later returning from 1998-2004 and finishing with a short stint on ITV before retiring in 2007. He was renowned for attracting the very top names from politics, sport and entertainment. Amongst those that he interviewed were Muhammad Ali, Paul McCartney, George Best, Orson Welles, Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne, Judi Dench, Dustin Hoffman and Clint Eastwood. However, he was sometimes criticised for his sexist approach to female guests, most notably an interview in 1975 with Helen Mirren.
This musical performance by Dolly Parton is part of an interview broadcast on January 6th 1979. If you view the whole interview it’s embarrassing to watch the creepy, leering interviewer start off by asking about her dress and describing it as “an eyeful” and later making predictable comments about her chest and how she “couldn’t be mistaken for a fella”. Dolly handles all this with good grace, something which Parkinson didn’t deserve, even given his later excuse that this kind of interview was “of its time”.
In the interview, Dolly talks about her humble beginnings as one of twelve children growing up in the Smoky Mountains. The song ‘Coat of Many Colors’ recalls those times, referring to the pride, happiness and love that existed amidst the poverty that she and her family endured. At a time when we are so accustomed to ‘superstar’ names being industry manufactured and where talent plays a distant second fiddle to image, it is nice to be reminded of a true star of the past and indeed the present. Dolly is a brilliant songwriter, possesses a glorious voice and as this clip shows, she could play a bit too.
The clip was resurrected from the BBC archive when it was used for the BBC4 ‘Country at the BBC’ compilation hence the (informative) annotation added to the original footage.