4 Dolly Parton Songs That Inspired ‘Heartstrings’ on Netflix

Dolly Parton In 'Rhinestone'
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“When in doubt, go back to the lyrics.”

That was the motto for the makers of Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, an eight-episode anthology series inspired by the songs of Dolly Parton (above, in 1984). The country legend, who introduces each hour and acts in several stories, approved each plotline and, according to executive producer and longtime Parton collaborator Sam Haskell, was tickled pink with the results: “When we first screened episodes for her, to see her reduced to tears of joy told us everything.”

Here’s a sneak peek at four songs on Heartstrings‘ setlist.


Key Lyric

“Your smile is like a breath of spring/Your voice is soft like summer rain/And I cannot compete with you, Jolene”

Made for TV

Fans of the 1973 megahit may think of Jolene as a home-wrecker (another lyric: “I’m beggin’ of you/Please don’t take my man”). But as showrunner Patrick Sean Smith is quick to note, the song never actually states explicitly that Jolene (Julianne Hough), now an aspiring singer-songwriter waiting tables at a honky-tonk owned by fiery mother hen Babe (Parton), intends to steal the husband (Dallas Roberts) of another woman (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). That’s why this story focuses on the unexpected, complicated friendship between the ladies.

“JJ Sneed”

Key Lyric

“At last I have caught up with you and you’re a sight to see/Could this really be my outlaw lover, JJ Sneed?”

Made for TV

A Western set in the 1880s, this tale centers on a spirited young woman (Willa Fitzgerald) in search of thrills who meets her match in, you guessed it, her outlaw lover, JJ Sneed (Colin O’Donoghue). Spoiler alert: If this episode really follows the lyrics, things don’t end well!

“Sugar Hill”

Key lyric

“A yellow dress drapin’ off of my shoulder/Seein’ myself in the looking glass/Older now and a little bit bolder/Thinkin’ about our summers past”

Made for TV

A married couple (Timothy Busfield and Patricia Wettig, who first costarred together on ABC’s 1987–91 relationship drama thirtysomething) take a road trip back to the place where they fell in love, making time to remember significant moments in their romance along the way.

“If I Had Wings”

Key Lyric

“One cannot predict the future/One cannot undo the past/But we can make the present useful/Build a future that will last”

Made for TV

Three siblings (Ben Lawson, Brooke Elliott, and Michele Weaver) return to the Mississippi farm of their long-estranged father (Gerald McRaney) on the occasion of his 70th birthday. In another bit of inspired casting, Delta Burke, McRaney’s wife of 30 years, plays his girlfriend.

“They haven’t worked together in quite some time,” says Haskell. “And believe me, Delta gives the performance of her life.”

Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, Series Premiere, Fall 2019, Netflix

— Reporting by Ingela Ratledge Amundson