Since the election of Donald Trump, there have been seemingly countless news pieces in the New York Times and other outlets where they talk to Trump supporters (sometimes the same Trump supporters over and over) in the South and heartland of the United States to find out what they are thinking. Well, the Times gave it a good try, but now it’s Dolly Parton’s turn.
Starting Tuesday, October 15, Jad Abumrad sets out to discover Dolly Parton’s America, in a nine-part podcast series from WNYC Studios that will attempt to crack the mystery of Dolly Parton’s near-universal appeal. Parton is known as the “Great Unifier” because her music and charity and general awesomeness bring people together. The singer and droll queen of one-liners is equally beloved by Southerners, evangelical Christians, and feminists, and is an LGBTQ+ icon.
The podcast is hosted by Radiolab host—and Nashville native—Abumrad who has a personal relationship with the country star thanks to his father, a doctor who gave Parton medical advice after a 2014 car accident. The show doesn’t stay in Nashville, though, or even in the United States. To get a full picture of Dolly Parton’s America, it travels from the Smoky Mountains to the hills of Nairobi and the mountains of Lebanon to the London premiere of 9 to 5: The Musical, before returning to Tennessee, exploring questions about feminism, faith, the South, the American Dream, and what “home” means along the way.
To tell the story of Dolly Parton’s America, the show interviews over 50 people: family and friends, her bodyguard, business associates, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, Rhiannon Giddens, country music insiders, Appalachian and Nashville commentators and academics, fans, and, of course, Parton herself. In the show, she gets personal and political, while explaining why she refuses to take a public political stance.
In addition to offering a fully fleshed out portrait of an American icon, Dolly Parton’s America also paints a fascinating portrait of American life, which only Dolly Parton could illustrate. You can subscribe here.