Beyoncé reveals how Stevie Wonder contributed to her version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’

Beyoncé’s twist on Dolly Parton’s classic country hit “Jolene” is one of the most talked-about moments of her new album, Cowboy Carter.

The pop megastar released her eighth studio record last week, unveiling collaborations with stars such as Miley Cyrus, Post Malone and the queen of country herself, Parton.

However, Beyoncé had more surprises in store as she appeared at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Tuesday (1 April) to collect the Innovator Award.

Stevie Wonder was there to present her with the trophy, prompting her to thank him for inspiring her work.

“Thank you so much Stevie, I love you,” Beyoncé, 42, said. “I love you and I honour you. I want to thank you for making a way for all of us.”

She continued: I’m honoured to receive this recognition from you, Stevie Wonder. Whenever anyone asks me if there’s anyone I can listen to for the rest of my life, it’s always you. So thank you, God bless you.”

Wonder responded: I want to thank you for motivating the world to be a better place.”

Beyoncé then added: “And thank you for playing the harmonica on ‘Jolene’.”

Beyonce with Stevie Wonder at the iHeartRadio Music Award (REUTERS)
Beyonce with Stevie Wonder at the iHeartRadio Music Award (REUTERS)

Originally released by Parton in 1973, “Jolene” was a plea to the country star’s rival, a red-headed bank clerk, not to steal away her husband.

On Beyoncé’s version, she flips the tone to make it considerably more menacing, as she sings: “You’re beautiful beyond compare/ Takes more than beauty and seductive states/ To come between a family and a happy man/ Jolene, I’m a woman too/ The games you play are nothing new/ So you don’t want no heat with me, Jolene.”

An interlude from Parton herself before the song compares “Jolene” to “that hussy with the good hair you sing about”.

Beyoncé famously sent a warning shot to “Becky with the good hair” on her song “Sorry”, which featured on her 2016 album Lemonade.

The song was widely interpreted to be about a woman Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, was rumoured to have had an affair with, as she sings: “Today I regret the night I put that ring on.”

“He only want me when I’m not there/ He better call Becky with the good hair,” she concludes.

Upon Cowboy Carter’s release, it emerged that Beyoncé had given Parton full credit for the song, despite rewriting many of the lyrics.

Dolly Parton gave her stamp of approval to Beyonce’s version of ‘Jolene’ (Getty Images)
Dolly Parton gave her stamp of approval to Beyonce’s version of ‘Jolene’ (Getty Images)

In a five-star review of the album for The Independent, Helen Brown wrote that Beyoncé drives “a coach and horses” through the racism and misogyny that has been prevalent in country music by “owning every country trope”.

“Throughout it all, Beyoncé’s hands are confidently and charismatically on the reins,” Brown said. “The righteous zeal of her mission, and the giddy range of sonic adventuring, repeatedly gave me chills I haven’t felt since the release of Lemonade.

“Back then she was fighting for her marriage. Now she’s fighting for a major culture shift. Throughout, she seeks to build bridges with the working men of the South, acknowledging their economic struggles.”