Wil Winters
5 min read


The White Stripes cover Dolly Parton
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Red-headed bank tellers now have two enemies

Jolene - the Dolly Parton original

If you were to break into my house and rifle through my CD collection, you’d quickly surmise that I have no time for country and/or western music. Either that, or a previous housebreaker in a ten-gallon hat filled his headwear and made a clean getaway.

With an ignorant mindset, I had managed to avoid Dolly Parton for far too many decades, dismissing her as just another starlet grazing in the lush pastures of country and western music.

Oh, boy, was I mistaken! Once I finally listened to a few of her tracks, I was immediately captivated by the exceptional quality of her songwriting and the heartfelt sincerity of her delivery. Her infectious personality has the power to melt the icy hearts of even the most hardened psychopaths. I wouldn’t be surprised if her birthday became a mandatory national celebration!

If only the White House had enough space to accommodate her extensive wig collection, I have no doubt that she could effortlessly win the hearts of the American people and become the first woman President of the United States.

Video of Jolene by Dolly Parton
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Watch Jolene by Dolly Parton

Jolene is a masterpiece—a desperate plea from a jealous and insecure wife, praying to a goddess to spare her the one thing she holds dearer than anything else in the world. It pierces the heart with its earnest pitifulness, transcending the clichéd lovey-dovey tropes commonly found in love songs. Instead, it paints a complex and compelling picture of a fragile relationship, rich with nuances and intricacies.

The composition of Jolene is distinct and instantly recognizable. It starts with delicate finger-picked acoustic guitars and gradually incorporates the full band and swirling strings. This progression adds layers of emotion and intensity, mirroring the growing desperation of the narrator as she pleads for clemency.

Parton’s lyrics in Jolene are truly sublime, showcasing her mastery in conveying the narrator’s desperation and heartbreak. A shiver runs down the spine halfway through the first verse, and by the second chorus, we find ourselves on our knees, surrendering to the mercy of the red-headed bank teller who inspired the song.

With her angelic voice and flowing blonde locks, Parton effortlessly transformed Jolene into a timeless anthem. Her rendition serves as a warning to anyone with a wandering eye, urging them to think twice before getting entangled in her web of emotions.

The White Stripes cover Jolene

If you were to break into my house and rifle through my CD collection, you will find several White Stripes albums. And you wouldn’t be able to fit them all into a trilby hat and still make a clean getaway.

I must admit, I was taken by surprise when I discovered that Stripes had covered Jolene. It didn’t quite make sense to me at first, but once Jack starts caressing the treble strings, I was instantly captivated.

Jack lures the listener in with a hypnotic interpretation of Parton’s original. His piercing vocals convey the same desperation as Parton’s rendition. Meg’s minimal cymbal and kick work punctuate the emotion flawlessly, serving as both a wonderful foil and structural support for Jack’s energy.

Video of Jolene by The White Stripes
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Watch Jolene by The White Stripes

Then, the chorus crashes in, and this small two-piece ensemble somehow generates enough energy to power a small city. Meg lays down a stripped-back yet rock-solid foundation that props the song up, allowing Jack to unleash his wild and raucous strumming and vocal warbles. The White Stripes possess a chemistry and connection that is impossible to replicate.

Leave it to Stripes to take a classic country song like Jolene and infuse it with a dose of gritty rock ‘n’ roll. Jack’s wailing vocals and Meg’s relentless drumming might make you question if Jolene should be more fearful of them than of Dolly Parton.

Comparing Dolly Parton and The White Stripes

Parton’s rendition of Jolene is polished and flawless, yet it doesn’t erase any of the emotional weight or mend the fragile heart that Parton sings with.

Stripes’ cover of Jolene showcases their remarkable ability to make a song their own while remaining faithful to its emotional core. They transform the original’s country twang into a raw, unpolished rock rendition that breathes new life into the track. Jack’s haunting vocals and Meg’s thunderous drumming create a palpable sense of desperation that underscores the narrative.

While the original version leans towards vulnerability and pleading, The Stripes’ cover leans towards defiance and urgency. They successfully retain the essence and spirit of the original while infusing it with their distinct sound. The cover version feels like a passionate plea, filled with determination and resilience.

The Stripes’ version has the writer in me throwing up words like defiance, urgency, raw, unpolished and haunting, struggling to capture its essence with mere words that can’t do their version justice.


If Dolly Parton’s heartfelt Jolene is a plea for her lover’s fidelity, then the Stripes’ cover version is the rebellious younger sibling who won’t tolerate any nonsense. It’s as if they caught Jolene red-handed and decided to deliver their garage rock justice. With power chords and frenetic energy, you can imagine Jolene throwing in the towel and fleeing for cover.

If either track graces my car radio, I’m cranking the dial up to eleven. Both are masterpieces in their own right, each for their own unique reasons. It’s worth noting that even Dolly herself loves The White Stripes’ version.

Should you, one dark evening, rifle through my CD collection, there’s a possibility you might discover a few Dolly albums tucked away towards the back.

I rate this cover a million rhinestones out of two black shirts and a pair of torn jeans. It’s simply fantastic!

Rejected art

Please enjoy these rejected cover images for this article.

Generated image of Jack White the C&W star
Generated image of Jack White the C&W star
Generated image of Dolly Parton and Jack White sharing a Jolene moment
Generated image of Dolly Parton and Jack White sharing a Jolene moment

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