Two county music icons will dominate the cable network’s schedule this Sunday.
You know you can never really get too much of Dolly Parton, right? So, keeping that in mind, the A&E cable network has opted to turn over most of its Easter Sunday schedule to the vivacious country music icon. We’d say that’s a pretty dang smart move all by itself, but here’s the capper: After the nine-hour Dolly marathon, A&E will round out the evening with a two-hour tribute to another living legend: Willie Nelson. Sweet.
The Dollypalooza begins at 1 pm ET/12 noon CT Sunday with Blue Valley Songbird, a 1999 made-for-cable movie featuring Dolly as a country singer who must escape her controlling boyfriend and her troubled past to move on and make music. At 3 pm ET/2 pm CT: Joyful Noise, a 2012 feature film starring Dolly and Queen Latifah as bitter rivals who become close collaborators while guiding their church choir to a national competition. (Kris Kristofferson makes a fleeting cameo appearance as the husband of Dolly’s character — but don’t expect him to stay around for long.)
Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Opry, a two-hour 2019 tribute special taped at the fabled Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, airs at 6 pm ET/ 5 pm CT. Emmylou Harris, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Margo Price, Toby Keith, Chris Janson and Hank Williams Jr. are among the notables who perform. And yes, Dolly herself sings a few classic songs that, as she jokes backstage “people would kill me if I didn’t sing.”
At 8 pm ET/7 pm CT, the main event: Biography: Dolly traces the superstar’s remarkable journey from a childhood spent in poverty to her recent 50th anniversary celebration at the Grand Ole Opry. The documentary reflects on the savvy social commentary and deeply personal stories within her lyrics, examining such hit songs as “Jolene,” “9 to 5,” and “I Will Always Love You.” In addition to showcasing exclusive interviews with Dolly herself, Biography: Dolly also features interviews with Lily Tomlin, Chris Stapleton, Jane Fonda, Kylie Minogue and other friends and fellow musicians.
We tracked down the documentary’s executive producer, Justin Gorman, and asked him through email a few questions about Biography: Dolly.
C&I: How long have you known Dolly Parton?
Justin Gorman: We met a couple of years ago when we began making the documentary. It’s a day the whole team remembers — Dolly is everything you expect. So gracious, professional — and incredibly funny.
C&I: Did she have many suggestions about the making of the documentary, in terms of focus, length, who to interview, etc.?
Gorman: Dolly wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just a biography. We talked through how the film would focus on her songwriting — and through that process we learn about her. It really was the best way to approach the project because there’s enormous amounts of Dolly in every song. And the more you look the more you find.
C&I: What surprised you the most while you were preparing/researching this documentary?
Gorman: Dolly’s work ethic and her unrivalled passion for everything she does. She has always had that attitude — and considering the ever-changing world that she has had to contend with, she has never wavered. As a woman in music she has contributed [countless] songs — not to mention films, Dollywood and of course The Imagination Library. That is simply mind-blowing.
C&I: What do you think is the secret of Dolly’s enduring, cross-generational appeal?
Gorman: Everyone loves authenticity and that’s Dolly — utterly authentic. Pair that with her talent, warmth and generosity of spirit, what’s not to love?
C&I: What is your favorite Dolly Parton song?
Gorman: I love “The Bridge.” When you look at when she wrote that song and the subject matter, she was so ahead of her time. It’s also stunningly beautiful and incredibly dark — an emotional rollercoaster.
C&I: Could you describe Dolly Parton in 25 words or less?
Gorman: Dolly and her work are a guiding light to how we can all live our lives. She is simply a legend.
But wait, there’s more: Willie Nelson: American Outlaw — which airs at 10 pm ET/9 pm CT — gives viewers a front row seat at Nashville’s one- night-only Willie Nelson tribute concert featuring an extraordinary lineup of performers that includes George Strait, Jimmy Buffett, Chris Stapleton, Dave Matthews, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Norah Jones and The Little Willies.
The two-hour program features over 20 never-before televised performances, exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes footage of Willie Nelson and some of music’s biggest superstars, and an all-star sing-along of Wille’s classic hit “On The Road Again.” Sounds like Must-See TV to us, folks.