Dolly Parton has written many heartbreaking songs throughout her career. One of those songs is “Down from Dover”, which tells the story of a young woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Here’s how the controversial tune came to be in the country’s queen’s own words.
Dolly Parton Wrote ‘Down from Dover’ on Porter Wagner’s Tour Bus
Parton can write songs almost anywhere. She wrote “Down from Dover” on the tour bus of her former partner, Porter Wagner.
“We rode past Dover, Tennessee, and my mind started running,” she wrote in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, songwriter: My Life in Lyrics. “It was a beautiful day, and the wind was blowing. This clover field was swaying in the wind. So there we were, Dover-Clover, and it got me started: ‘Behind the cloud the sun casts a creeping shadow over the clover fields. And time is running out for me. I wish he could get off Dover quickly.’”
How was Dolly Parton’s relationship with husband Carl Dean different from her relationship with Porter Wagner?
Various “dovers” have claimed the song to be theirs. But it was written about Dover, Tennessee.
“The song was big in England, so everyone there thinks it’s about Dover, England,” she wrote. “And Dover, Delaware, also claims it. We used that city as a background  Netflix movie ‘About’down from dover.’ But it was inspired by Dover, Tennessee.”
No one will play ‘Down from Dover’ on the radio
While “Down From Dover” is certainly a fan favorite, no one would play it when it was first released.
“It could not be released as a single because of its theme,” Parton wrote. “The disc jockeys were not interested in this; It was very controversial. Even today people don’t talk about it, and especially then they didn’t hold back.”
When Parton originally released the song in 1969, the subject was shocking to many.
“When I wrote this, if you got pregnant out of wedlock, you would either have to get rid of the child, adopt it, or you would have to leave the house altogether,” she wrote.
Still, she thinks it should have been played on the radio.
Dolly Parton’s Famous Disappointing Songs
Young Dolly Parton grew up listening to the songs her mother sang – English, Irish, Welsh folk songs about death and tragedy. The subject matter impressed Parton at an early age. “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” featured some of the singer’s earlier songs with depressing, mature themes. The subject seemed to stick. “Down from Dover” isn’t exactly a happy song.
“In the song, the parents turned against the girl,” Parton wrote. “They sent her out so she could find a place on a farm with an old woman, and the baby died. God, I just can’t be so hopeless, can I?”
Dolly Parton Says ‘When Possession Gets Too Strong’ Porter Describes Her Relationship With Wagner
To be fair, Parton says she even surprises herself when she writes the disappointing ending. She never knows how it will end until she gets there.
“When you tell these stories, you must have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” she wrote. “So I just keep writing along. I myself never know how I’m going to end it until I get near the end. When I start talking about it or thinking about it I realize how sick I really am. People always say, ‘You just look so happy.’ I say, ‘Yeah, but I can write you a sick song!’”