This cover of Dolly Parton‘s Jolene by the White Stripes comes from Under Blackpool Lights, their first live DVD.

Dolly Parton is clearly a musical genius, and a great person besides. Things I love about this song:

1. One word hooks are the catchiest thing ever. It makes me think of the songs Shout (either version), whose hooks have just one syllable. A goldfish could remember it.

2. I love audio representations of specific human emotions, and the way those repeated Jolenes rise up over that chord progression is a musical version of pleading if I’ve ever heard one.

3. It is impossible not to empathize with the singer, and everybody knows a Jolene. A few people even are one.

4. There’s nothing like a melancholy candidness.

5. Dolly Parton has said that it’s based on a few real events in her life, but the hot red-headed bank teller who was hitting on her husband was never all that threatening. It was a joke between her and her husband how often he made trips to the bank, causing her to remark once, “We don’t even have that kind of money!”

It just goes to show: Sometimes the best way to write a sad song is with a smile.

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