Dolly Parton, the iconic country singer, recently shared the intriguing story behind her rendition of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, ‘Free Bird,’ for her upcoming rock album, ‘Rockstar.’ In an exclusive interview, she provided insights into how she secured permission from Ronnie Van Zant’s widow to feature the late rocker’s vocals in her cover.
Kent Wells, Parton’s longtime collaborator and producer for ‘Rockstar,’ played a pivotal role in connecting her with Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“Kent Wells has been my guitar player, arranger/producer, and bandleader for thirty-some years. When I was getting ready to do ‘Rockstar,’ he was busy producing an album for Lynyrd Skynyrd. They knew Kent worked with me, so they asked if I would sing on a new version of ‘Free Bird.’ And it turned out really good.”
The collaboration with Lynyrd Skynyrd planted the seed for the idea of incorporating ‘Free Bird’ into Parton’s rock album.
She further revealed,
“Later on I said to Kent, ‘What about putting ‘Free Bird’ on my rock album too, if we get permission from them to do it?’ So that’s what we did. Then Ronnie Van Zant’s widow said that she’d let us use his voice on the track. She wouldn’t allow Lynyrd Skynyrd to do it, but she said: ‘I’ll do it for Dolly!’ So we got to use Ronnie on there. We had already recorded it, but his phrasing was so simple that they just dropped his vocal in.”
Parton’s rendition of ‘Free Bird’ also pays homage to other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The cover features original guitarist Gary Rossington and former drummer Artimus Pyle, adding a layer of authenticity to the tribute. Unfortunately, Rossington passed away in March this year, turning the track into a heartfelt epitaph.
Dolly Parton, known primarily for her contributions to country music, is boldly venturing into the rock genre with ‘Rockstar.’
The album is a collection of rock covers, both classic and contemporary, showcasing Parton’s versatile musical prowess. Notably, the project includes collaborations with renowned artists like Miley Cyrus, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Pat Benatar.
In a unique approach, Parton insisted on singing all the songs herself, maintaining the authenticity of each cover. The album, set to release on November 17, promises a captivating blend of Parton’s distinctive voice with the timeless allure of rock music.
As Dolly Parton continues to break boundaries and surprise her fans, ‘Rockstar’ stands as a testament to her enduring creativity and willingness to explore new musical horizons.