Playlist: Jolene

Sometimes it’s just a regular Tuesday in the endless tradition of Tuesdays but it’s just completely awful, a day that should be stricken from the record. Sometimes on days like that, you need to listen to something exactly as anguished as you are — something like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene!” As heteronormative as it sounds (which, whatever, Dolly, I see you), there’s just nothing more cathartic than wailing “THERE’S NOTHING I CAN DO TO KEEP/MYSELF FROM CRYING WHEN HE CALLS YOUR NAME, JOLENE.”

So in the spirit of whatever force in the universe brought us that set of covers of “Hallelujah,” (for which I am still grateful for the k.d. lang cover), here are 10 versions of Jolene*. Feel free to play whenever you need to weep softly and sing loudly to yourself about her auburn hair and emerald eyes. Or the fact that the Chipotle is out of black beans and the pinto beans have bacon in them. Whichever. Did you know JANIS IAN SANG A SONG CALLED JOLENE? You’re welcome.

* I know the Cake, The Weepies , and Janis Ian songs aren’t covers. Don’t care.

fucking fierce as fuck

Jolene – Dolly Parton
Jolene – The White Stripes
Jolene – Olivia Newton-John
Jolene – Janis Ian
Jolene – Matraca Berg
Jolene – The Weepies
Jolene – Cake
Jolene – Rhonda Vincent
Jolene – Mindy Smith ft. Dolly Parton
Jolene – Reba McEntire

Jolene from Autostraddle on 8tracks.

Want to suggest a playlist theme? Hit Crystal up on Formspring and someone on the team will make it for you.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Thank you for not including that TERRIBLE cover done by Dot Marie Jones/Glee. Although, I still find it hilarious that two irl lesbians fought over a man named “Cooter”.

  2. I was JUST obsessing about the queerness of this song (guys, the homoeroticism is so out of hand) and then THIS. AMAZING.

    • The homoerotic dynamic between Dolly and Jolene reminds me of that between Rachel and Quinn. Does this make sense to anyone else? (Glee on the mind because it was just on and there was lots of Faberry but the episode sucked)

  3. I was literally JUST talkin about the story behind this song. Like 2 minutes ago. It’s my go-to karaoke song.

  4. Oh my god so much yes. This stupid, masochistically horrible song haunts my dreams.

    Probably the best playlist in the history of the world ever.

  5. Paula Cole has also done a cover of “Jolene” if you want your collection to be even more complete.

  6. True story, I collect covers of this song. The White Stripes one is my all-time favorite, in larger part because Jack White is my absolute favorite musician (and he lends it an extra level of queerness). Also, 10,000 Maniacs has a great live cover.

  7. This is quite literally the only playlist I ever need. Jolene is my favorite karaoke song everrrrr.

  8. Oh my goodness, this song. And THE WEEPIES. I’ll be listening to this playlist all day.

  9. Omg. This playlist. I love Dolly Parton! She knows the struggles of large breasted women. <3

    When you feel said about heteronormative songs, you should just do as I do and rewrite the lyrics to be about women. Works every time. :)

    "You could have your choices of women, but I could never love again. She's the only one for me, Jolene."

  10. YES. I was obsessed with Dolly as a kid. I thought she was a living Southern Disney Princess. My favorite movie was 9 to 5 when I was about five years old. #signs #lifemakingsense

  11. damn was i confused for a bit about that cake “cover.” it’s not actually a cover, it’s a cake original also called “jolene.”

    unrelated point: the first concert i ever saw was dolly parton. i was 10, and i was obsessed with her variety show. now i’m obsessed with taking a road trip to dollywood.

    • I rode the ferris wheel at Dollywood “with” Dolly when I was 9ish. (Not in her car/basket/whatever, sadly, but at the same time. My girl scout troop was at Dollywood on the day the ferris wheel opened. Also, I grew up near her siblings / parents, and folks is crazy.) I didn’t appreciate Dolly until I moved away from Pigeon Forge for a while, though, because it’s Dolly-land all the time there. There should be an AS road trip to Dollywood, and you can sleep on my floor.

      • I grew up out there too! Let’s make this happen. (And she is not lying about the crazy; East Tennessee is full of the crazy.)

      • I’ve been to Dollywood too! My fifth grade Destination Imagination team was in TN for the championship competition! Did you see the musical about her life story?

      • amazeballs! i usually don’t give a shit about celebrities, but i’d die to meet dolly. probably not literally die, but if given a genuine option…

      • Yep, ever since the start of her career. I mean, who do you know who’s immaculately turned out – hair, nails, always heels – and trailed by a cute butch all the time? Your femme friends, right? You should read Dolly’s autobiography if you can get a hold of it. I was reading it to my gf once and she said “Um, she basically comes out in here. How was that not noticed?” I could probably write an article about this, ha. Dolly is my spirit animal.

  12. You know what would be cool? If AS included a poll where we could vote for our favourite songs.

    • True story, the Mindy Smith version was the first one I’d heard. I was so blown away by her album when it came out. Whatever happened to her?

  13. The Geraldine Fibbers covered Jolene. It was kind of angry and mournful. I saw. Carla Bozulich recently at a show and she seems to have mellowed.
    Great playlist. I love Dolly.

  14. So many feelings!! Most of all it really makes me wish I had a video of the drag queen in Las Vegas who performed this song on my birthday…it was pretty much just as awesome as you would imagine ;)

  15. I know this doesn’t count as its not a cover and the title is slightly different but… “Jolene, We Almost Never Met” by Archer Avenue (Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s beginner band) is a great jam.

    • This storyline was actually very important to my coming out process. I am not kidding. It was the first series I watched just for the queerness.

      Look at me now, ma. Top of the world!

  16. I am going to karaoke tonight and performing this song. My friends love it, cause I have red hair and fair skin. Kind of ironic. Also, this song kind of fits my day.

    Also, the fact that Reba McEntire did a version of this song and that it was included on this list makes me so very happy. I never thought I’d see her name brought up on AS, but seeing it here definitely brought a smile to my face.

  17. dolly is such a bad ass.
    jack white’s version slays me-the high notes, the intensity, the ROCK! ugh. so good.

  18. Wait, what’s the name of this song?


    I tend to wanna just listen to Dolly’s Jolene over and over because I adore her, but for the sake of not annoying my neighbors (as much), I’ll throw in Jesse Thomas’ version. (If you check her out, I highly suggest you listen to some of her other songs.)

  19. I don’t care how het this song is, it is my karaoke song always and I love it and I love you for this. Also, the White Stripes cover is so creepy and awesome I’ve never been able to get over it.

    • also my favorite bartender in NY plays it every time I’m at the bar and comments on my green eyes/pale skin/red hair combination and it is wonderful. Seriously, this has made my night.

  20. My name is Joleen (spelled differently but the same!) And even though I have had this song sung to me nearly every day for the past 26 years, I still love it! I could be named after worse songs, that’s for sure.

  21. OK – my best ever interaction w/ celebrities/talent working in showbiz went thusly: Me and my crew had to rush out to a location because the original guys fucked up and were fired on the spot – the UPM had worked with us previous and put out a “SOS Save us!” call. We looked over the room they were shooting in and went off to find another room (it was an actual house) to set up in. While we’re doing our thing a blonde bouffant’d head peeks in the door and says – in that unmistakeable voice – “Hi, I’m Dolly”. So we naturally had to stop what we were doing and make our introductions. It was so great – I’ve NEVER had an actor take the time to seek us out and introduce themselves. For extra squee, she also sang and told cute stories between the longer set-ups.

  22. I just saw this post for the first time and when Jack White started singing and the crowd joined in I actually teared up with joy? I am having a majorly shit day so thanks for that.

Comments are closed.