Is there a word for the opposite of writer’s block? If there isn’t, Dolly Parton should get to coin it, since the country music legend says she penned “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene” in one day. “That was a good writing day” is how the ever-humble fan favorite described the process of writing the two eventual Billboard Country Music No. 1 hits in 1972. They remain two of her best-known songs a full half-century later, with “I Will Always Love You” taking on a second life when Whitney Houston covered it for the 1992 blockbuster The Bodyguard. Parton, who used some of her royalties from the cover to invest in a Black neighborhood in Nashville, is a fan of Houston’s version and has said she “would’ve loved” to perform a duet with Houston even though “she’d have outsung me on that one for sure.”
“Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” aren’t the only megahits in history that were written quickly, of course. It took Mariah Carey and songwriter Walter Afanasieff just 15 minutes to co-write “All I Want for Christmas,” while the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” the Guess Who’s “American Woman,” and several other famous tunes were all put together in around 10 minutes. Sometimes when inspiration strikes, it really strikes.
By the time Miley Cyrus was born in 1992, Dolly Parton had been a country music icon for more than two decades. Thanks to Parton’s close friendship with Miley’s dad, “Achy Breaky Heart” singer Billy Ray Cyrus, she was chosen as Miley’s godmother. “When Miley came along, I said, ‘She’s got to be my fairy goddaughter,’” Parton recalled in an interview. Parton has also said that the “Wrecking Ball” singer “just had a light about her” from a young age. The relationship is both personal and professional, and Parton appeared on Hannah Montana with her goddaughter several times. And though Cyrus has elicited occasional controversy throughout her career, Parton has vowed to “never, ever bad-mouth Miley, no matter what she does. I just always hope she comes out the other end alright.”