5 Songs You Didn’t Know Dolly Parton Wrote for Other Artists

Writing her first song when she was just 5 and learning to play guitar at 7, it was never any wonder Dolly Parton would write plenty of her own hits. Throughout her career, spanning nearly 60 years, there were also songs the country legend wrote and handed off to other artists.

“I love to write songs for men,” said Parton in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. She added, “And it’s a good thing I do because back then, there weren’t that many women in the country music business to write songs for—especially ones who weren’t writing their own songs like Loretta Lynn was. I didn’t have a lot of space to write songs for women so I purposefully tried to write songs that men could record—or songs that could go either way.”

Though many of her earlier collaborations were predominantly with men, from her uncle and co-writer Bill Owens to working with Porter Wagoner and later Kenny Rogers in the 1980s, Parton has also had plenty of songwriting and singing partnerships with female artists, including writing for Skeeter Davis in 1967 and singing with everyone from Norah Jones, Janis Ian, Lorrie Morgan. Dolly even co-wrote a song with her goddaughter Miley Cyrus.

Dolly Parton (Photo: Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

In 1987, Parton’s first collaborative album with Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris, Trio, won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The country trifecta later released their follow up Trio II in 1999.

“Everything’s a song to me and I have the gift of rhyme, so I’m just always writing stuff,” Parton said in 2011. “The more you live, the more you have to write about, and the more you write, the more you’re skilled at it.”

Here’s a look at songs you may not have known Dolly Parton wrote and co-wrote with and for other artists.

“Put It Off Until Tomorrow,” Bill Phillips (1966)
Written by Dolly Parton and Bill Owens

“Put It Off Until Tomorrow” was one of two songs that helped put Dolly Parton on the map as an artist and songwriter in country music. Written by Parton and her uncle Bill Owens, “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” was first recorded and released by Bill Phillips in 1966 and was later included on Parton’s 1967 debut Hello, I’m Dolly. After hearing Dolly sing the demo for the song, Phillips asked that she also sing harmony with him on the track; her backing vocals ended up gaining a lot of attention from radio nationwide. The song reached No. 6 on the country charts and was named BMI’s Song of the Year in 1966.

“Uncle Bill and I were so excited about going to the big ceremony to accept our awards,” said Parton of her BMI win. “After all, this was the first of our songs to be recorded by a major artist. To have it recognized in that way by all of those established songwriters was a huge confidence builder for both of us.” Phillips also recorded “The Company You Keep,” also written by Parton and Owens, which reached No. 8 on the country charts.

“Fuel to the Flame,” Skeeter Davis (1967)
Written by Dolly Parton and Bill Owens

Keeping the momentum of their previous hit “Put It Off Until Tomorrow,” Parton and uncle Bill also wrote “Fuel to the Flame,” which was recorded and released as a single by American country artist Skeeter Davis in 1967. Released on Davis’ 1967 album What Does It Take (To Keep a Man Like You Satisfied), “Fuel to a Flame” became the first major hit for the artist in two years, peaking at No. 11 on the Hot Country Singles chart. Like the Phillips hit, Parton didn’t let her lyrics go to waste and also recorded a version of the song for her 1967 debut Hello, I’m Dolly.

“I Lived So Fast and Hard,” Porter Wagoner (1968)
Written by Dolly Parton

“I Lived So Fast and Hard” was written by Dolly Parton and was first recorded and released by Mel Tillis in 1968. Parton’s longtime collaborator Porter Wagoner then released the song on his 1968 album The Carroll County Accident. Parton famously wrote her 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You” about her decision to end her working relationship with mentor Porter Wagoner.

“The Stranger,” Kenny Rogers (1984)
Written by Dolly Parton

Though their 1983 duet “Islands in the Stream” is most memorable, Parton and friend Rogers collaborated on several other occasions. Parton even penned the melancholy ballad “The Stranger” for Rogers’ 16th album, What About Me? Later that year, Parton and Rogers also released the holiday album Once Upon a Christmas.

“Rainbowland,” Miley Cyrus (2017)
Written by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus

When Miley Cyrus was working on her sixth solo album, Younger Now, she co-wrote the entirety of the album along with Oren Yoel with the exception of one track: “Rainbowland.” Cyrus’ godmother Dolly Parton came on board to co-write and sing the song with her. “What a co-writer it is to have,” Cyrus said. “I just learned so much.”

Photo: Gillian Laub

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