Professor Honors Dolly Parton Classic in Hopeful Rendition, ‘Vaccine’

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Ask any number of people counted in the legions of fans supporting Dolly Parton through her six decades plus at the pinnacle of country music stardom, and they’ll tell you that she’s already earned patron saint status.

The acclaimed singer-songwriter didn’t just sit by and wait for something to be done as the terror of the virus took hold in the spring. Dolly Parton dug deep into her heart along with her hard-earned resources.   She donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in April.  Her gift was part of the initiative for “Build a Bridge to Save Lives.”  The intent of the research was to develop viable therapeutic interventions until a truly viable vaccine became available.

Now, at last, there are two prime contenders in the vaccine race that seem ready for their last trial phase before being made available to the public after the New Year.  Dolly Parton didn’t make her earlier donation a secret, but her generosity came to light again this week.  Parton’s donation went public as part of the major funding for Moderna’s virus research. It resulted in its vaccine candidate. The Boston Globe and Yahoo News both verify the disclosure.

The country music queen displayed her characteristic quiet humility on Today yesterday, November 17, in discussing the matter.  One very talented admirer named Ryan Cordell, however, was so moved that he had to put his own exuberant words to Dolly Parton’s most covered song.  The results are just what she and every heart need to hear these days.

Professor Cordell put new words to the beloved Dolly Parton tune

Ryan Cordell is an associate professor in English at Northeastern University. It’s no wonder that he knows his way around rhyming verses. What is surprising is how well the repeating, wonderful words of “vaccine” take the place of the flirty “other woman” in “Jolene.”

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine (the last repeated with an added flourish) opens Professor Cordell’s song. He continues, “I’m begging of you please/Go in my arm.”  Linguist and author, Gretchen McCulloch, came up with the lyrics and invited people to record them in whatever way they chose. After another round of repeated “vaccines,” the town gets serious for the Dolly Parton adaptation, pleading “Please keep me safe from COVID harm.”

It took a true fan with a history of Dolly Parton love to infuse her spirit into the words. Ryan Cordell grew up loving Dolly Parton.

The medical mash-up to the Dolly Parton song sets its target on healing

Dolly Parton explained in another Country Music Alley feature recently how “Jolene” was based on two encounters with real people.  First, the songwriter met a little girl named Jolene, who asked for an autograph.  Soon after, her husband went in for a bank loan for his business.  Dolly observed an overly forward “pretty lady at the bank” who aided in the transaction.  The character of “Jolene” was born, and Dolly Parton wrote the song on her bus the same day.

The professor’s plaintive appeal is directed at something much more ominous than a person.  The virus has claimed nearly 250,000 lives at this point, and cases are surging by the millions. More than begging is needed for this menace to flee– it needs to be solidly vanquished.  Dolly Parton is more than ready to return to “When Life Is Good Again.”  She certainly makes the most of every today.

In the early summer, there were already petitions circulating to have Confederate statues replaced by Dolly Parton cast in stone.  The monumental giver with the good heart may be in line to visit with Pope Francis or nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize next. Professor Cordell has already drawn heaping views to his heartfelt video.  Like the superstar who wrote “Jolene,” he keeps his heart in the right place.

Ryan Cordell has a proven history as a Dolly Parton fan

“I’m just happy that anything I do can help somebody else,” Dolly insisted on Today. “I just wanted it to do good,” she reiterated regarding her donation. “Evidently, it is.”  Dolly Parton has a single-minded aim to help “find a cure– real soon.”

Ryan Cordell has felt the goodness flowing from Dolly Parton songs for years. The educator grew up listening to Dolly Parton music– thanks to his parents and grandparents.  He instantly “grabbed my guitar” to get the positive message posted.  Cordell remains especially pleased by the positive reaction of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals on the frontline. “If it made them happy, just for a minute, that’s all I need,” the professor states.

As far as a favorite musical memory, Ryan Cordell recalls Dolly Parton at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival as his favorite.  Few would disagree and Dolly herself admits being surprised to still get rave reviews of her performance.

Whether it’s “Vaccine” or “Jolene,” the song comes from two people with very kind hearts.  Dolly Parton’s generosity is still the driving force.

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