Although for official purposes all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees are created equal, some are bound to weigh more than others when the rubber hits the road. And so, as much as die-hard Duran Duran or Iron Maiden fans might have flocked to the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles in orderly numbers for Saturday night’s ceremony honoring the venue’s Class of 2022, it was always a foregone conclusion that the show’s star-studded highlight would revolve around the most iconic of them all, Dolly Parton. If she showed up to accept, that is, but after some initial uncertainty as to her will earlier in the year, there was no doubt that she would not only appear but be the belle of the country-rock ball.
In fact, the final moments of the five-and-a-half-hour show were devoted to a duet between Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp from Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.” But it felt more like a quick epilogue after a lengthy Parton-focused segment that included renditions by the superstar and/or other inductees and guests of “Jolene,” “9 to 5,” “Coat of Many Colors,” and a brand new song she wrote especially for the occasion titled “Rockin'”. Although other inductees on the bill noted that they had to condense their careers into an eight-and-a-half-minute time slot, this rule was hardly enforced strictly for what amounted to a Dolly Fest before and after the clock has struck 12 .
The influx of guests for what appeared to be the show’s finale – a group-singing “Jolene” – and the eclecticism of this year’s incoming roster of new members has led to the sight of some strange bedfellows. As in: Probably few people in history had thought that Parton and Judas Priest singer Rob Halford would ever sing in harmony together. And the idea that even Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon would sing lines from “Jolene” probably hadn’t crossed as many minds as it should have before the show (which will be edited out for its first run on HBO on November 19). ).
Of course, there were also less unusual suspects involved in the tribute segment, including Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, the Zac Brown Bad and the woman who officially inducted Parton, Pink — before a “Jolene” that brought on stage additional guests. like Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, as well as Halford and LeBon.
In purely musical terms, the highlight of the tribute segment was also the simplest – a sublime duet between Carlile and Pink from one of Parton’s signature narrative ballads, “Coat of Many Colors.” The energy spiked a bit from there as Crow and the Zac Brown Band (who provided the backing for the entire sequence) teamed up for “9 to 5”.
As the clock ended on this cover, Parton got howls of appreciation when she reappeared on stage with an electric guitar in skintight black that was clearly meant to mean: Dolly Parton, Once Reluctant and Now Unabashedly Enthusiastic Rock Chick. “And you thought I couldn’t rock!” she exclaimed. “I figured if I was going to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I had to deserve it,” she explained, before releasing a new song with freshly minted lyrics that contrasted with her rural upbringing in the Tennessee with the early days of rock: “I grew up loving Elvis and the wild man Jerry Lee / Chuck Berry and Little Richard, they all put a spell on me / Carl Perkins in those blue suede shoes didn’t have out of place on the farm / But they were better than those I wore around the barn.
The new song “Rockin'” also included lines about her not following what her country preacher said about “that evil music, it’ll send you straight to hell/She sent me straight to the heaven”. The chorus swore, “I’ve still got rock ‘n’ roll in my country soul / And I’ll do it till the cows come home.” Naturally, however, the biggest whoops came for some timely lines in the final verse which included, “Country is in my veins / But since I heard the news, I’ve never been the same… / They left and put me in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In her introductory speech, Pink praised Parton saying, “There are few finest songwriters, male or female, who ever lived… She is one of the greatest storytellers of his time – of all time.” The speech cited her as a writer adept at evoking “what it is to be human and what it is to be a woman in America”, with specific themes and songs, such as “poverty, shame, the cruelty of bullying, and love for his mum” in “Coat of Many Colors”, suicide in “The Bridge”, the trauma of a stillborn child in “Down From Dover”, and many sure, writing ‘the best-selling song by a woman of all time, ‘I Will Always Love You.’ Apparently, she wasn’t exhausted after this sheer genius, because that same night she wrote “Jolene.” Show off!” Pink opened up about her philanthropy giving away £150million to children, among other good works, but seemed particularly obsessed with other aspects of Parton’s personality. Like: “She plays guitar with long fingernails shaped like a greenhouse and never misses a note.” And, “Who here has a hologram of themselves in their own amusement park?” (Pink then added that she’d really like to dig into Dolly’s hologram , but that she would abstain.)
Parton, unsurprisingly, devoted much of her speech to further explaining why she tried, unsuccessfully, to decline her nomination after arriving, only to be told by Rock Hall that the vote was already underway and that ‘she would get in the room whether she liked it or not, if the voters so decreed. They did, of course, but long before the final verdict, Parton changed her mind, saying she really didn’t realize that the Hall of Fame already had many members of genres close to rock.
“I’m sure many of you knew that back when they said they were going to put me in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I didn’t really feel like I had done enough. to deserve this. And I didn’t realize at the time that it was a little more than that,” she said. “But I’m just honored and so proud to be here tonight…. When I always thought of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I thought it was just for rock ‘n’ roll people!
“And I thought, well, if I want to be in it, I’m going to have to do a rock album, because my 56-year-old husband is a huge rock fan. And all over the house there’s music louder than this one that’s going on all the time. He always said, “You should do a rock album. And I’ve thought about it many times, but timing is everything. And then when all that happened…I thought, well, since I’m going to be in the (lobby), I’m going to write a song for tonight, which I’m going to sing in a minute, kind of tell my story about how I felt about it. “
Anticipating this promise to make such an album, she asked, “Are any of you going to help me on that? Good, because I’m going to hold you to it. … I’m just honored to be a part of it and to have all the friends here tonight going into the Hall of Fame with me. So I’m proud to be here, as Minnie Pearl would say.
Later, as much of the night’s cast lined up for the cluster singing of “Jolene”, Parton surveyed his immediate landscape and continued to establish himself as both part of the inductee gang. and as something separate and different. “We have a starry scene here, don’t we? I feel like a hillbilly in the city.