Dolly Parton Would Be OK With Jolene Taking Her Husband: ‘You Can Have Him Now’

In one of Dolly Parton’s most well-known songs, “Jolene,” she sings about an auburn-haired woman who’s caught her husband’s eye. Though the lyrics are based on a true story, Parton was never actually threatened by the Jolene in her real life. These days, though, Parton jokes that she’d be fine if Jolene came for her husband. She described the behavior from her husband that makes her feel this way.

Dolly Parton wears a white lace dress and stands in front of a red and white background. Dolly Parton's song "Jolene" helped launch her to success.
Dolly Parton | David Becker/Getty Images

Dolly Parton met her husband on her first day in Nashville

In 1964, Parton left her hometown in Sevier County, Tennessee, to pursue music in Nashville. That same day, she met her future husband, Carl Thomas Dean. 

“I graduated on a Friday night, went to Nashville on a Saturday morning with dirty clothes and I went to a Laundromat looking for anything but love,” Parton told Interview Magazine. “I had just left two boyfriends back home and I wasn’t looking to get involved because I had gone to Nashville to really get started in the business.”

Despite this, she felt a quick connection with Dean. They began dating and, two years later, the pair got married in an intimate ceremony.

“My first thought was ‘I’m gonna marry that girl,’” ET reports that Dean said on their fiftieth anniversary. “My second thought was, ‘Lord she’s good lookin’. And that was the day my life began. I wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth.”

Dolly Parton joked about the real-life Jolene

Parton wrote “Jolene” about a bank teller who had a “terrible crush” on Dean.

“He just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention,” Parton told NPR. “It was kinda like a running joke between us — when I was saying, ‘Hell, you’re spending a lot of time at the bank. I don’t believe we’ve got that kind of money.’ So it’s really an innocent song all around, but sounds like a dreadful one.”

The song became one of Parton’s first hit singles in 1973. In it, she begs Jolene not to take her man. These days, Parton feels a bit differently. After over five decades of marriage, she tries to keep their romance fresh.

“It’s important to me that I look as good as I can,” she told E! News. “I think it kind of helps keeping things spicy.”

Sometimes, Dean’s behavior makes Parton wish that Jolene was around to take him, though.

“Every once in a while I see Carl leaned back, snoring in his La-Z-Boy chair and I think, ‘Where is Jolene when I need her?’” she joked. “Come on, you can have him now!”

The ‘Jolene’ singer says she’s loyal to her husband

Despite the jokes, Parton and Dean have been happily married for years. Often, though, his aversion to the public eye and her flirtatious nature cause people to speculate about the state of their marriage. Specifically, fans wonder if Parton has had an affair. Though she rarely outright denies rumors for the sake of publicity, Parton has gone on record stating that they’re very much in love.

“He’s not jealous and I’m not jealous of him. He knows I flirt. He flirts too,” the Mirror reports that she said. “Yes, it’s an open relationship, but not sexually and I would kill him if I thought he was doing that. He would shoot me too. At the end of the day we love each other madly.”

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