The Real Reason Dolly Parton Re-Records Some Songs to Feature Them on Albums Multiple Times

Dolly Parton fans may have noticed that the Queen of Country will sometimes recycle old songs. She’ll re-record a song on a new album, even if it debuted on a previous one. There’s a reason for that. Parton believes in those songs; she thinks they have the potential to become hits. Maybe they just debuted at the wrong time and this time people will “get” them.

Dolly Parton performs onstage during the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Dolly Parton | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Dolly Parton on why she re-records songs

In her 2020 book, Dolly Parton: Songteller, My Life in Lyrics, Parton writes about her reasoning behind re-recording songs.

“I have a tendency to re-record a song if I really believe in it,” she wrote.

Typically, the songs Parton re-records, she feels are some of her “best work.”

“So I try to bring them around and think, ‘Maybe this time people will get it,'” she wrote. “I believe this could be a hit, if not for me, then for somebody, somewhere, someday.”

Dolly Parton recorded ‘What a Heartache’ three times

An example of a song Parton has re-recorded is “What a Heartache.”

“The song was originally written for the soundtrack of the 1984 movie Rhinestone,” reads Parton’s 2020 book, which was co-authored by Robert K. Oermann. “Dolly chose to revisit it first as a track on 1991’s Eagle When She Flies, then again as one of her Halos & Horns selections.”

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I thought I’d found a safe and loving place inside your heart
And I was warm and willing any time
The same soft lips that kissed me sweet were lying from the start
But I swear I thought your love was genuine
What a heartache you turned out to be

“What a Heartache” by Dolly Parton

In the song, Parton elaborates on the universal, specific pain of heartbreak.

“A heartache is as sharp as a knife,” she wrote. “If you’re going to hurt me like that, this is what it feels like. That’s the way it is in this song. It’s the way it is in ‘Dagger Through the Heart,’ which is on that same album. In the old days, people would kill themselves over a broken heart.”


“What a Heartache” was originally written by Parton for the 1984 movie Rhinestone. The film is about a singer (Parton) who attempts to teach a New York City cab driver (Sylvester Stallone) how to become a country star. It was considered a flop, but Parton had a good time with Stallone, even if he “cannot sing country music.”

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“I was coming out of a big gloom at the time, and I had some health problems and was not feeling so good,” wrote Parton. “But he was so health-conscious, crazy, and funny. It was good for me. So the movie was a hit to me, personally.”

While the movie didn’t receive good reviews, Parton thinks the soundtrack she wrote is still “one of my very best albums.”

“I wrote all the songs for the movie based on the stories in it,” she wrote. “Even though the movie did not do well and didn’t get good reviews, if you listen to the songs I wrote for it, they hold up. I loved a lot of the songs in that soundtrack. I enjoyed writing that as much as anything I’ve ever done.”