Dolly Parton's Husband Warned Her Not To Cover 'Stairway To Heaven'

2 January 2024 | 2:34 pm | Ellie Robinson

“People don’t want other people messing around with that song.”

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton (Supplied)

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Dolly Parton has revealed that one key figure in her circle warned her not to cover Led Zeppelin’s 1971 classic Stairway To Heaven: her husband.

The revelation came in a new interview with Classic Rock, during which Parton discussed the origins behind some of the anthemic covers featured on her 49th studio album, Rockstar (which arrived in November of 2023). Discussing her take on what is arguably Led Zeppelin’s biggest hit, Parton noted that her husband, Carl Dean, is “a huge fan of Led Zeppelin and thinks Stairway To Heaven is one of the classic songs of all time”.

Because of that, Parton said, Dean “was kind of concerned about me [covering the song]. He said: ‘I don’t know if you need to mess with that, because I think you’ll get a lot of criticism. People don’t want other people messing around with that song.’ But I did it anyhow. And he made a joke about it at first: ‘I think that was more like Stairwell To Hell than Stairway To Heaven!’” 

Parton went on to explain that she’d covered Stairway To Heaven once before, albeit in “the bluegrass gospel field” (for her 2002 album Halos & Horns) , but “wanted people to know that I could sing it in its original form”. Her husband’s approval was a key motivator. She added: “I wanted, more than anything, for Carl to know that I could do that too. So I decided to be true to its form. And I have to add that Carl said: ‘Y’know, that’s pretty good.’ That’s really something coming from him!”

The version of Stairway To Heaven on Rockstar features a guest spot from Lizzo and her alter-ego Sasha Flute.

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Shortly after releasing Rockstar last November, Parton unveiled a surprise deluxe edition featuring two bonus songs: a cover of the Eddie Money track Two Tickets To Paradise, and a reworked version of her own classic song Jolene featuring Italian pop-rock group Måneskin. It came shortly after Parton revealed the two artists she wished she could’ve had feature on the album, but wasn’t able to secure.

In a recent interview with The Music, Parton spoke about Rockstar stemming from her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Asked if she thinks she’s earned her place there, she answered: “I think I have. I mean, I didn't know that I had,” she admits. “Well, I'm sure there are greater people than me that deserve to be in there more than me, but since I am in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, I think [with] this album, I brought so many great artists back into this album that are not in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that deserve to be.

“I felt like I had to not only earn my keep, I tried to pay homage to a lot of these great artists that should be in there that are not and to the ones that are that I've gotten the opportunity to sing with.”