Dolly Parton Says This 1970 Song Is ‘One of the Saddest Songs I’ve Ever Been a Part Of’

Article Highlights:

  • When Dolly Parton debuted “Daddy Come and Get Me” and what it’s about
  • The song is based on two true stories
  • Why “Daddy Come and Get Me” is the saddest song Dolly Parton has ever written
Dolly Parton plays the guitar on 'Dolly.'
Dolly Parton on ‘Dolly’ in 1987 | Craig Sjodin/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Dolly Parton is known for her sad songs. In fact, in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, she even wrote: “I think sometimes I ought to get sued for writing such pitiful songs… I write a lot of sad songs, and some of them are just plum pitiful.” One of the saddest, though, came about in 1970. The song is called “Daddy Come and Get Me” and the story it tells is truly gut-wrenching. Here’s what the Queen of Country has to say about the provocative song.

‘Daddy Come and Get Me’

Parton first introduced “Daddy Come and Get Me” on her 1969 LP The Fairest of Them All. In the early weeks of 1970, it climbed the charts to the No. 40 slot. Parton wrote the song with her aunt, Dorothy Jo Hope (especially in her early career, Parton often wrote with family members). The song tells the story of a woman who’s driven crazy by the man she loves. He puts her in a mental institution “to get [her] out of his way.” And she’s begging her daddy to come rescue her.

“Oh Daddy, come and get me, and take me home with you. I’m depending on you, Daddy, ’cause there’s nothing else I can do. And you said that I could come to you, if I ever was in need. But Daddy I can’t come to you. You’ll have to come to me.”

Dolly Parton based ‘Daddy Come and Get Me’ on two women she really knew

Heartbreakingly, the song is based on two real women that the “9 to 5” singer knew growing up.

“I wrote it with my aunt Dorothy Jo,” wrote Parton. “We both knew a story back home about a very nervous and emotional woman that some man had driven crazy. He was having an affair. And because this woman was so crushed and broken, he put her in a mental institution. We knew this woman, and she didn’t have much family on her side to keep it from happening. He just put her in that institution to get her out of the way so he could go on with his life.”

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But the “Jolene” singer didn’t know just one woman who was wrongly institutionalized by the man she loved.

“Later on, I knew someone in Nashville who had the same thing happen to her,” she wrote. “It was a situation that nobody knew how to handle. This song was based on those stories.”

Dolly Parton says ‘Daddy Come and Get Me’ is one of the saddest songs she’s ever written

Parton wrote that “Daddy Come and Get Me” was “one of the saddest songs I’ve ever been a part of.” The subject matter is, of course, disturbing But what makes matters worse is that the song is based on a true story.

“We thought, how sad it must be to have to reach out to your father to say, ‘I’m in this mental institution looking out through these iron bars. How could he put me in here? How could he go that far?'” wrote Parton. “She couldn’t call on her husband, obviously. You can always count on your parents, although in the song, you can’t tell if the daddy will rescue her or not.”

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Though “Daddy Come and Get Me” is truly one of Parton’s most “pitiful” songs, she enjoyed writing it.

“We loved writing that song,” she wrote. “During some of my happiest times, I’ve written some of my saddest songs, and vice versa.”