Dolly Parton Didn’t Write ‘Hard Candy Christmas,’ But She Wishes She Did

Dolly Parton is widely considered one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters, with a repertoire that spans decades. A prolific singer and businesswoman, she’s proven her ability to capture complex emotions in just a few well-chosen lyrics. Parton has lent her voice to many Christmas songs. But interestingly enough, one of her most iconic holiday tunes wasn’t even written by the country star. In a 2022 interview with Kelly Clarkson, Parton opened up about “Hard Candy Christmas,” revealing that while she didn’t write the song, she wishes she did.

‘Hard Candy Christmas’ is considered a holiday classic

dolly parton hard candy christmas
Dolly Parton talks to the media at a press conference at the InterContinental Sydney on November 10, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. | Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Recorded in 1982, “Hard Candy Christmas” was written by composer-lyricist Carol Hall for the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, a film that starred Parton in a leading role. The song went through several iterations during the early years of its release. One version was recorded for the play and another by Parton. According to Wide Open Country, the song hearkens back to a time when families couldn’t give their children much more for Christmas than hard candies, such as lollipops or peppermints. 

Due to Parton’s starring role in the movie and her song performance, she became closely associated with “Hard Candy Christmas.” Several years after the song was first released, Parton re-recorded the tune along with Kenny Rogers. And in 1988, Parton performed the song on Bob Hope’s Christmas Special

What did Dolly Parton recently reveal about ‘Hard Candy Christmas’?

These days, “Hard Candy Christmas” is in wide rotation during the holiday season. It’s widely regarded as one of Parton’s classics — even though she didn’t write the beloved song. In a recent interview with Kelly Clarkson, the singer opened up about the song and its origins. “I love that song, and people always tag it to me,” said Parton. “But I get credit for a lot of stuff a lot of people do!”

“That’s one of the ones I did not write, but everyone thinks I did — and I wish I had,” the country hitmaker told Clarkson. Of course, Parton has written many of her most iconic hits, including “Jolene,” and “9 to 5. She’s based many of her songs on her own experiences growing up in a small town in Tennessee. And, as Clarkson pointed out, even if Parton didn’t write “Hard Candy Christmas,” she was still able to use her skills as a storyteller to bring the song to life in a unique way.

Dolly Parton has noted that ‘Hard Candy Christmas’ isn’t truly a holiday song

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Parton famously loves Christmas, opting to celebrate with her family every year and often spoiling them with special gifts. However, Parton also doesn’t believe that “Hard Candy Christmas” is truly a holiday tune. “It’s kind of funny that people think it’s a Christmas song, and it’s really not,” Parton admitted, according to Whiskey Riff. “It’s really just about people having hard times and saying, ‘It’s like a hard candy Christmas,’ like when you’re so poor that all you get for Christmas is a piece of hard candy.”

Still, there’s a lot in the story of the song that Parton can relate to. Her parents could rarely afford much for Christmas, but as Parton recalled, “we always had a little something…. It didn’t matter what we got… it was great for us.” Certainly, the heart Parton puts into her version of “Hard Candy Christmas” helped to make the song an instant classic.