Dolly Parton’s Voice Is the Reason to Listen to Her “Let It Be” Cover

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are among the guests on the song

Dolly Parton and "Rockstar" logo
Dolly Parton teamed with a pair of Beatles to revisit "Let It Be."
Mike Marsland/WireImage

If you’ve spent any time listening to Johnny Cash’s American Recordings albums, you’ve probably encountered a phenomenon that comes up a few times there: one artist covering another artist’s songs with the original artist along for the ride. Cash did so with both Tom Petty and Will Oldham, and another music legend — Dolly Parton, in this case — seems to have embraced this concept for her forthcoming album Rockstar.

It’s not shocking to see that Parton could get musicians ranging from Steve Perry to Miley Cyrus to Debbie Harry to appear on, respectively, her takes on “Open Arms,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Heart of Glass.” Parton is as close as we can get to a universally beloved musician right now, and the roster of guest stars on the album reflects that. Arguably the highest-profile guest stars present are two members of The Beatles — Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — who joined Parton (and Peter Frampton and Mick Fleetwood) for a version of “Let It Be.”

This version is, well, about what you’d expect from Dolly Parton covering “Let It Be.” It does not feature an IDM interlude or a shift into Merzbow-esque harsh noise; it’s a familiar ballad covered by someone who knows her way around a ballad. Compared to Phil Spector’s production on the version of “Let It Be” heard on the Beatles album of the same name, this is relatively understated — closer in tone to, say, the Glyn Johns mix.

Despite her high-profile guests, the real reason to listen to this song isn’t their presence or the way this version of “Let It Be” is arranged. Instead, it’s Parton’s voice, which has always been expressive but has become more weathered with age. McCartney was 27 when The Beatles recorded “Let It Be;” Parton is 77, and she brings that age and experience to bear in her approach to the song.

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It’s worth mentioning here that Parton’s recording career overlapped with that of The Beatles by a few years — her debut album Hello, I’m Dolly was released two months before Magical Mystery Tour hit record stores across the U.S. in 1967. There’s a lot of musical history in this cover of “Let It Be” — and a sense of something coming full circle.

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