One of Dolly Parton’s ‘Best Songs’ Didn’t Get Ample Airplay After Conservative Radio Branded It ‘Too Feminist’
From the beginning of her career, Dolly Parton has never shied away from topics that might be deemed “controversial” to some listeners. Some of the Queen of Country’s best songs, in her opinion, didn’t get any radio play when they came out because they were deemed too this or too that.
Dolly Parton’s ‘Eagle When She Flies’
Parton wrote “Eagle When She Flies” to be the theme song for Steel Magnolias. “That’s why I used the lines ‘Gentle as the sweet magnolia, strong as steel, her faith and pride,’” she wrote in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. However, the film team decided not to use a theme song at all.
The Queen of Country connects to the song on a personal level.
“I related to eagles, somehow,” she wrote. “Eagles are the strong ones, flying the hardest, the fastest, the highest. I didn’t realize how much I write about eagles until somebody brought it to my attention. I must just relate to the idea of soaring.”
Parton isn’t a stranger to writing about “things with wings.”
“If I ain’t writing about angels, I’m writing about eagles or butterflies,” she wrote. “I just love things that can move and get on out of here.”
‘Eagle When She Flies’ didn’t get ample radio play
Parton still thinks “Eagle When She Flies” is “one of my best songs.”
“I think it covers all kinds of women, ‘a kaleidoscope of colors,’” she wrote.
At the time of the song’s release, there were some radio stations that didn’t take the “kaleidoscope” of women featured as a good thing.
“This Song’s music video featured images of women from all walks of life in a visual tapestry,” reads Parton’s book. “Conservative radio programmers branded the single as ‘too feminist,’ hampering its airplay.”
On the charts, “Eagle When She Flies” reached No. 33 and was nominated for a Grammy Award. It’s also the title song on Parton’s Platinum-selling 1991 album.
Another Dolly Parton song deemed ‘too controversial’ for featuring women’s issues
“Eagle When She Flies” isn’t the only song of Parton’s that missed out on radio play. The Queen of Country told journalist Jad Abumrad on the podcast Dolly Parton’s America that one of her best songs, “Down From Dover,” didn’t get played on the radio because it was too controversial.
“Down From Dover” is about a teenager who becomes pregnant and tries to conceal her pregnancy while she waits for her love to return. If he comes back for her before her community finds out she’s pregnant, she won’t be ostracized. But he doesn’t and her family kicks her out. He never returns for her and the baby dies.
“They wouldn’t play it on the radio back at that time,” she said. “It’s one of my best songs ever.”
“They wouldn’t play it on the radio, not because the kid died, but because she got pregnant,” she continued. “Because she — it was an illegitimate [pregnancy].”
Parton wanted to put the song out as a single but her record label at the time, RCA, didn’t let her.
“I wrote a lot of songs that people wouldn’t play on the radio, but I didn’t care,” she wrote in her 2020 book. “It bothered me at the time, but I never thought, ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ Whatever I write is just what comes out of me, and I refuse to be judged.”