I come from a line of music lovers, mom’s side, dad’s side, and while my dad is more of an old school rocker and my mom is a music junkie regardless of the genre, as long as she can sing and bust a groove, I, Jess, have inherited a love of music that goes beyond what makes me feel good, it’s my livelihood, and how I express myself in almost every way possible.
I want to share a story about two women in particular who have impacted me greatly and not just musically.
My Grandmother Edna and Dolly Parton.
My grandma Edna, was born in Alabama and grew up on a cotton farm in Tennessee. Her hands are tough, you can see and feel the scars in her palms from where she was cut from picking the cotton. In her early 20s her first husband died, not only was she left a widow but a single mom for many years until she met my grandpa Henry. All the while she bought a building, opened a restaurant, managed, cooked, cleaned, and waited on tables. She did absolutely everything. Her hours of labor were not the typical 9-5 job most Americans are used to working, she always went above and beyond. She was and still is one of the hardest working women I have ever known.
My grandmother loves country music (being raised in the South) naturally. Her father was a fiddler in the foothills of Tennessee. As the family legend goes, he was the best of the best. I tend to think we are biased however I can remember visiting my grandmother’s sister, Gladys as a teen. She pulled out a cassette player and a tape, popped that sucker in and said with her sweet southern drawl and a glimmer in her eyes, “Jessi, listen!”
To my ear’s delight, it was my great grandpa fiddling away like a boss in an old barn, foot stomping, washboard action and all, the people in the background whooping and hollering! I can still hear it in my mind like it yesterday!
My mom and I have taken quite a few road trips down south with my grandma to her old stomping grounds. One trip in particular we listened to an auto-biography on cassette by Dolly Parton. I was 13 at the time and a bit frustrated that we would be listening to Dolly for 10 hours straight, instead of my rock music. My mom kindly said to me, “Honey, your grandma really likes Dolly Parton and I thought it would be nice if we listened to Dolly’s story.” I gave in only because I had no other choice, I was trapped in a car and not going anywhere else.
I ended up being pretty amazed by Dolly’s story of hardship and pain, triumph and success, not only as a performing artist but as a normal hardworking woman trying to make it in this cruel world. I never really cared for Dolly’s music growing up… it wasn’t “my thing” but as I soaked in Dolly’s story I realized why my grandma loved her so much!
Dolly was a hard working woman just like my grandma and she identified with Dolly’s story. It’s taken me years to get this, but music isn’t just for listening pleasure, music is always telling a story, sometimes good ones, some times bad ones. Either way music is so important because it connects us to each other, it helps us identify with people we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
On this very day, January 29th, 32 years ago, Dolly Parton’s song “9-5” hit the charts.
It’s a song about working a crappy job, day in and day out.
Dolly connected with hardworking, under appreciated and unnoticed people all over the world, because Dolly knows exactly how that feels.
Who loves working a job they hate? I mean come on!
And why wouldn’t you want to sing from the top of your lungs a catchy tune that hits that unsatisfying vocational spot deep within your soul!? Stories do something to us don’t they? Whether a book, or movie, a painting, a song, a hand written note, they transcend time, stories, music, art, they connect us to each other as human beings because we all have a story.
Even though Dolly’s music isn’t my preferred choice of genre, I love who she is as a songwriter. She doesn’t write music to satisfy her inner rock-star, she longs to connect with people, and identify with their stories.
Her story brought joy to my grandma, and seeing that in my grandmother’s life a hardworking woman enjoying the work of another hardworking woman, there’s nothing better. I hope I can share that kind of joy with people even if I never hit the charts with my songs.
I want to hear your story, and share in your story, so that you and I can remember at the end of the day we are never alone and that we should never give up!
No matter what your story is, what your dreams are, don’t let the craziness or mundanities of this life take you over!
Here is to all you hardworking women, and men!
You have a story, and it needs to be heard. So how are you going to share it today?
You never know how your story will change someone’s life.
As Dolly says in her opening line in “9-5”
“Tumble outta bed, and stumble to the kitchen, Pour myself a cup of ambition…”
I raise my cup of coffee to you.