What inspired Dolly Parton to write her infamous song, “Down From Dover”

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Dolly Parton has written many heartbreaking songs throughout her career. One of these songs is “Down From Dover”, which tells the story of a young woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Here’s how the controversial song came about, in the country’s queen’s own words.

Dolly Parton | J. Sciulli / WireImage

Dolly Parton wrote “Down From Dover” on Porter Wagoner’s tour bus

Parton can write a song just about anywhere. She wrote “Down from Dover” on her former duo partner Porter Wagoner’s tour bus.

“We passed Dover, Tennessee, and my mind started to go,” she wrote in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Words. “It was a beautiful day and the wind was blowing. There was this field of clover swaying in the wind. So we were there, Clover Dover, and it got me started: “The sun behind a cloud has just cast a creeping shadow over the clover fields. And time is running out for me. I wish he would hurry down from Dover.

RELATED: How Dolly Parton’s Relationship With Husband Carl Dean Differs From Her Relationship With Porter Wagoner

Different “Dovers” have claimed the song as their own. But it was written about Dover, Tennessee.

“The song was big in England so everyone there thinks it’s Dover, England,” she wrote. “And Dover, Delaware, claims it too. We used this city as a backdrop for the [2019] Netflix movie on “Down from Dover”. But he was inspired by Dover, Tennessee.

No one would play ‘Down from Dover’ on the radio

While “Down From Dover” is certainly a fan favorite, no one would play it on its first release.

“It couldn’t be released as a single because of its subject matter,” Parton wrote. “The disc jockeys weren’t interested in it; it was too controversial. Even to this day, people don’t talk about it, and they certainly didn’t at the time.

When Parton first released the song in 1969, the topic shocked many people.

“At the time I wrote this, if you got pregnant out of wedlock, you either had to get rid of the baby, put it up for adoption, or you just had to leave the house completely,” she wrote.

Still, she thinks it should have been aired on the radio.

Dolly Parton’s famous depressing songs

Young Dolly Parton grew up listening to the songs her mother sang – English, Irish and Welsh folk songs about death and tragedy. The subject influenced Parton at an early age. Some of the singer’s early songs from “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” had mature and depressing themes. The themes seemed to stick. “Down from Dover” isn’t exactly a happy song.

“In the song, the parents turned on the girl,” Parton wrote. “They sent her outside so she found a place on a farm with an old lady, and the baby died. Lord, I can’t be depressing enough, can I? “

RELATED: Dolly Parton Says ‘When Possession Gets Too Strong’ Describes Relationship With Porter Wagoner

To be fair, Parton says she surprises herself even when writing depressing endings. She never knows how something is going to end until she does.

“When you tell these stories, you have to have a beginning, a middle and an end,” she wrote. “So I continue to write. I never know, myself, how I’m going to end it, until I’m near the end. It’s only when I start to talk about it or think about it that I realize how morbid I really am. People always say, ‘You look so happy.’ I say, ‘Yeah, but I can certainly write you a morbid song!’ “


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