Country icon Dolly Parton released her first album in 1967 and hasn’t taken a break since. But now 73 years old, she knows a time will come when that’s no longer possible. Luckily, the Hall of Famer has a plan.
Speaking on a recent episode of the NPR podcast, Dolly Parton’s America, the living legend explains that she’s preparing to leave behind a massive amount of unfinished music … and she says it’s up to us to keep her legacy going.
“I am a lucky person because I’ve got hundreds, even thousands of songs and a big part of them haven’t even been recorded,” Parton says. “There’s enough stuff to go on forever with my music — to do compilation albums, actually, new and original stuff, and I am purposely trying to put songs down for that very purpose. To have a click track and my vocals, to where any arrangement can be done. So I think ahead.”
In plain language, that means Parton is currently recording a huge amount of unheard songs, but she’s not bothering to put instrumentation around her lyrics. It’s just her unmistakable vocal and a click track — which is like an electronic metronome, keeping her on the beat and making it easy to add whatever kind of music a producer would like later on. That means Parton’s voice could be placed into any musical context the future dreams up — and that’s exactly what she wants.
“Any producer anywhere in the world, when I’m gone they can take my songs, just the click track of my vocal and build a complete arrangement around that — any style, anything,” she says. “As you know, if you have a good click track and a vocal, anything can be done with that. So that will go on forever. I’m one of those people that believe in being prepared. I don’t want to ever leave my stuff in the same shape like Prince or Aretha [Franklin], or anybody that don’t plan ahead with that.”
“For me, as far as what I hope my music will be left behind, I hope that it will always live,” she adds.
Listen to the full episode below: