Although one of the world's most successful songwriters, having penned more than 3,000 songs and recorded about 300 of them herself, Dolly frequently puts her own signature style on others' originals.
Her first duet hit with Porter Wagoner, on 1968's Just Between You and Me, was Tom Paxton's folk standard "The Last Thing On My Mind," [country #7] a popular tune for folk singers of the time, including Peter, Paul, and Mary. It also included the standard "Somewhere Between."
On their next album, 1968's Just the Two of Us, Porter and Dolly covered the R&B classic "The Dark End of the Street."
Although she has released three full-cover albums, 1984's The Great Pretender saluting '50s and '60s rock and roll, 1996's Treasures featuring country and rock classics, and 1993's Honky Tonk, Angels with Loretta and Tammy, she has had a few albums with several cover songs on them, some of which include:
In The Good Old Days (1968): Jeanie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA" (written by Tom T. Hall), Porter Wagoner's "Carroll County Accident" (written by their producer, Bob Ferguson, and a No. 1 for Porter the same year), and Tammy Wynette's classic "D-i-v-o-r-c-e."
Blue Ridge Mountain Boy (1969): Elvis' "In the Ghetto" [country #50] (written by Mac Davis, who would later co-write several songs with her on White Limozeen and whose "Something's Burning" – made popular by Kenny Rodgers and the First Edition – appears on Treasures), "Big Wind" (a No. 3 for Porter Wagoner the previous year), and the country and pop tune "Games People Play."
A Real Live Dolly (1970): On this live performance album recorded in her old high school, Dolly sang two songs which she used to frequently perform as a teenager – "Tall Man" and George Jones' "You Gotta Be My Baby" (which she recorded again for the AIDS benefit album Red Hot and Country in 1994).
The Best of Dolly Parton (1970): On this compilation, a new song appears, Dolly's version of Jimmy Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8)." This single was the first time a woman's interpretation of the mule skinner lyrics was attempted, and it peaked at No. 3 on the country charts and even got light airplay on progressive rock stations.
Sings My Favorite Songwriter: Porter Wagoner (1972): An album which earned Dolly many snickers around Nashville, it does contain some of Porter's best work as a writer. He said Dolly lured him out of a several-year-long writing hiatus, and she paid him back by recording several of his songs on her own albums (far too many to be listed here) and by doing this entire album of his work. The only previous Porter hit on the album was "What Ain't Be, Just Might Happen" (a No. 6 for him the same year).
Love is Like a Butterfly (1974): Here Dolly covered another Porter tune, "Highway Headed South" (a No. 15 for him the same year).
The Bargain Store (1975): Merle Haggard's "You'll Always Be Special to Me."
All I Can Do (1976): In Dolly's first try at co-producing herself (with Porter), she recorded another Haggard original, "Life's Like Poetry," and Emmylou Harris' haunting "Boulder to Birmingham."
New Harvest, First Gathering (1977): On Dolly's first album after splitting with Porter, she tried her hand at the classic "My Girl," re-written as "My Love," and the pop tune "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher."
Here You Come Again (1977): Her first all-out pop try, this album included a remake of Kenny Rodgers' "Sweet Music Man" (which he wrote) and the rock song "Lovin' You."
Great Balls of Fire (1979): Here Dolly added two more classic rock songs to her repertoire, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" and the Beatles' "Help."
9 to 5 and Odd Jobs (1980): A concept album about working people centered around her working anthem "9 to 5," Dolly chose several established tunes including Woody Guthrie's "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)," Mel Tillis' "Detroit City," Merle Travis' "Dark as a Dungeon," the traditional "House of the Rising Sun" [country #14, pop #77] and "But You Know I Love You" [country #1, pop # 41], which had been a hit for Kenny Rodgers.
Heartbreak Express (1982): Dolly covered the country standard "(Please) Release Me (Let Me Go)," which she had also recorded in her childhood Goldband sessions.
Burlap & Satin (1983): The following year, she recorded "Send Me the Pillow that You Dream On."
Trio (1987): Here, the girls re-recorded two Porter and Dolly cuts, "The Pain of Loving You" (written by Porter and Dolly) and "Making Plans," as well as a '60s girl-group classic, "To Know Him is To Love Him" [country #1], and Jimmy Rodgers' "Hobo's Meditation."
White Limozeen (1989): Under producer Ricky Scaggs, Dolly cut a country version of REO Speedwagon's "Time For Me To Fly" and the song "He's Alive" [country #39], Don Francisco's moving 1977 story of Christ's resurrection as seen through the eyes of Peter, (interesting to hear a woman sing a song from the point of view of a male Disciple).
Kenny Rodgers' Love is Strange (1990): The title song from this album, a duet by Kenny and Dolly, had been a '60s hit for Micky and Sylvia and was revived in the film "Dirty Dancing." Kenny and Dolly's version went to No. 21 on the country charts.
Slow Dancing With The Moon (1993): Here Dolly put her vocals to "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," a '60s classic revived on the "Scrooged" soundtrack earlier by Annie Lennox and Al Green. (The title song for this album was written by Mac Davis.)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Heavenly (1997): After backing Dolly on her cover of Cat Stevens' "Peace Train" on Treasures, this African troupe asked her to sing lead on their cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," which had a few years back been a hit for Guns 'N' Roses.
Trio II, her second collaboration with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, even brought home a Grammy in 2000 for their cover of Neil Young's "After the Goldrush" with Dolly on lead.
When she returned to bluegrass music and roots folk in 1999, covers continued. The Grass Is Blue contained numerous cover tunes, from Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" to Billy Joel's "Travelin' Prayer" (which was nominated for the Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy; the album won Best Bluegrass Album). 2001's Little Sparrow saw, among a few others, Cole Porter's "I Get A Kick Out Of You," The Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" and Collective Soul's "Shine," 2002's Best Country Vocal Performance Grammy winner. In 2002, she just included just two covers on the self-produced Halos & Horns: Bread's "If" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven," both of which brought almost universal critical acclaim as the best cover versions of either song ever recorded.
And Dolly has even frequently covered herself.
"I Will Always Love You," written for Porter Wagoner to explain her split from him as duet partner, was originally a No. 1 for Dolly in 1974 from Jolene. She pulled it out again in 1982 as the finale in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," again hitting No. 1 on the country charts, plus No. 53 on the pop charts and a Grammy nomination. After Whitney Houston's smash 1992 version from "The Bodyguard" (which reportedly earned Dolly more than $4 million in songwriting royalties), Dolly hit No. 15 on the country charts with Vince Gill in the 1995 duet, earning another Grammy nomination and the CMA Award for Best Vocal Collaboration on Dolly's Something Special. In 1998, Dolly received the 5 Million-Air Award from BMI for all four versions being played on radio around the country at least 5 million times.
"Put It Off Until Tomorrow," a hit for Bill Phillips in 1966 with Dolly singing uncredited harmony (and winning her a BMI Award as one of the most played country song of the year), was a solo cut on her 1967 Monument album Hello I'm Dolly, a duet with Porter Wagoner on their 1968 duet album Just Between You and Me,, and again recorded with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette on their trio album Honky Tonk Angels in 1993.
"The Beginning" was a 1973 solo on Bubbling Over and a Porter duet on 1976's Say Forever You'll Be Mine.
"Early Morning Breeze," originally recorded on Coat of Many Colors in 1971, was re-recorded on Jolene in 1974.
"The Fire That Keeps You Warm" was a Porter duet on 1974's Porter 'N' Dolly and a solo cut on 1976's All I Can Do.
"In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)" was a title cut in 1969 and re-recorded in 1973 for My Tennessee Mountain Home.
"Jolene," one of her most successful early recordings and from the 1974 album of the same name, appeared again on the live 1975 In Concert release and again on 1995's Something Special. (Both the 1974 and 1975 versions earned Grammy nominations).
"Light of a Clear Blue Morning," Dolly's freedom anthem after her split with Porter, appeared on 1977's New Harvest, First Gathering and was covered on the soundtrack to Dolly's 1992 film "Straight Talk."
The Porter Wagoner-written tune "Lonely Coming Down" made its way onto two Dolly albums: Sings Porter Wagoner in 1972 and Jolene in 1974.
"Most of All, Why," a Dolly cut on 1975's Dolly, was covered by Holly Dunn on her 1989 release Blue Rose of Texas with Dolly singing harmony.
"My Blue Tears," originally on Coat of Many Colors in 1971, appeared again on Linda Ronstadt's 1982 Get Closer with Dolly and Emmylou Harris and on Dolly's live 1994 release, Heartsongs.
"My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy," was first on 1969's album of the same name before Dolly re-did it live in 1970 for A Real Live Dolly and covered it again on 1982's Heartbreak Express.
"Poor Folks Town," first a duet with Porter on 1972's Together Always, was covered on 1980's 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs.
"The Seeker," a spirited gospel Dolly original, was on 1975's Dolly before reappearing on 1995's Something Special.
"To Daddy" was recorded by Dolly in 1976 for All I Can Do but pulled from the album when Emmylou Harris asked if she could release it as a single, and it was a hit for her. Dolly's original can be found on RCA's Essential Dolly Volume 1, and Dolly did it again live on 1994's Heartsongs
"Traveling Man" appeared first on Coat of Many Colors in 1971 and again on Bubbling Over in 1973.
"What a Heartache" was written and recorded for the film "Rhinestone" in 1984, but Dolly put out a version with slightly different lyrics on 1991's Eagle When She Flies.
"Wings of a Dove," a country gospel standard written by Dolly's producer Bob Ferguson, was placed on her gospel album Golden Streets of Glory, which he produced in 1971, but reappeared on 1993's Honky Tonk Angels.
A Real Live Dolly (1970) also included live performances of "Dumb Blonde" and "Something Fishy" (both from 1967's Hello I'm Dolly), "How Great Thou Art" (1971's Golden Streets of Glory), and Porter and Dolly's "Jeanie's Afraid of the Dark" (1968's Just the Two of Us), "Run That By Me One More Time" and "Tomorrow is Forever" (1970's Porter Wayne and Dolly Rebecca), and "Two Sides to Every Story" (1968's Just Between You and Me).
Heartsongs (1994) also included live performances of "Appalachian Memories" (1983's Burlap & Satin), "Applejack" (1977's New Harvest First Gathering), "Coat of Many Colors" (1971 title cut which also appeared live on 1975's In Concert), "My Tennessee Mountain Hom" (1973 title cut),
In Concert, a 1976 live album from the ABC television special with several other RCA artists, also featured "The Bargain Store" (1975 title cut).
And her bluegrass roots albums of the past few years include additional covers: The Grass Is Blue saw her revisit "Will He Be Waiting", Little Sparrow brought new versions of "My Blue Tears" and "Down From Dover", and Halos & Horns brought new recordings of "Shattered Image" and "What A Heartache".