Dolly Parton 9 to 5: The Making Of An Anthem

Dolly Parton 9 To 5: The Making Of An Anthem

When Jane Fonda approached Dolly Parton about staring in a new film entitled 9 To 5, Dolly’s response was, “I’ll only do it if I can write the theme song”. Who would have thought at that moment, the song that came into being from that conversation would take on a life of its own and even outshine the movie?

The movie’s two other main stars, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin first heard an early rendition of 9 To 5 in a parking lot outside the film set one afternoon between takes. Fonda recalled, “Lily and I looked at each other, and we had goosebumps. And we knew this wasn’t just a movie song, this is an anthem”.

Black and white photo of a young dolly parton playing the guitar
The Irrepressible Dolly Parton

An Anthem Inspired By Acrylic Nails

As strange as it may sound, Parton first got an early idea for the song thanks to her fingernails. She discovered that when she rubbed her long acrylic fingernails together, they made a sound that sounded like a typewriter. With the film set in the world of secretaries, it instantly felt like a natural fit to Parton.

In an interview with Jimmy Fallon Dolly explained, “When I actually wrote this song, I actually had — I used my acrylic nails on the set when I was writing it. [laughter] I did because they make noise, and it sounded like a typewriter to me.”

9 To 5 is undeniably a great track, but it has a whole other life. Parton’s song and the movie were inspired by the woman’s activist organization ‘9to5’ which strives for fair pay and equal treatment for women in the workplace. As Jane Fonda mentioned, the song became an anthem for working women and untied them under one banner.

Still Working

Forty years later, women are still taking inspiration from Parton’s lyrics. New York magazine writer Rebecca Traister wrote the song is “simultaneously a song of angry complaint and immense good cheer. And there is something about that combination that makes it kind of addictive and fun.”

9 To 5 was released as a single in November 1980 and reached number one on the American Billboard Charts. Parton also went on to win two Grammy awards for the song and earned herself an Academy Award nomination for best original song.

Dolly Parton 9 To 5 Official Video

This blog originally appeared on To-DoLists.com – To-do lists inspired by film and music.

a photo pf dolly parton above a quote by her
Dolly Parton’s To-Do List

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I certainly know the song well, but I once saw an interview with Dolly Parton in which she said, basically (I’m paraphrasing here) that it was a woman’s duty to look good for a man. I’ve been anti-Dolly ever since.

    1. Oh really? I’d never heard about that. That does seem to go against what she’s saying here. The again, so many singers probably write stuff they don’t really mean, it just sounds good! 🙂

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