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This morning I accidentally caught part of ABC’s morning show The View, whose hostesses including Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters. I’m not a big fan, even of the network itself, but I happened to see Dolly Parton on the couch while channel surfing and stopped to see what she had to say. Apparently a Broadway musical had opened, based on the popular 1980 movie Nine to Five which starred Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda and Dolly was on The View to speak up for the musical and her related album. I’m also not a big fan of musicals so my attention drifted to how disconcerting it was that Dolly Parton and Joan Rivers are beginning to look more and more alike. Then something perked my ears up again.

I think it was Joy Behar who made the remark, something about the major record labels not picking Dolly up for her latest album. “What?” I thought. “She’s Dolly Parton … how do you not sign Dolly Parton?” Granted, I’ve never bought one of her albums and think her best days were spent with Porter Wagoner (and yes, I realize a staggering number of readers will not recognize the name of Porter … a shameful thing in and of itself) but Dolly is music royalty. She was there when the foundations of modern country music were being laid down and put in more than a few good bricks of her own. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2001. She’s won several Grammy Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song … twice. Her voice has been on the radio since 1955 and her recording career spans five decades … but she’s not good enough for Columbia? Arista wouldn’t have her? It’s ludicrous. And since no major music recording label would sign her, she started her own: Dolly Records.

But this all seems eerily familiar. For the last decade of his life, Johnny Cash was shunned by major record labels. A living legend in his own right, John had written over a thousand songs, released dozens of albums, been on the top of the Billboard charts more times than anyone could remember … and no one wanted to sign him. In typical Johnny Cash style, he gave them the finger and signed with Rick Rubin at American Recordings, a small label better known for hard rock and rap. From 1994 to 2002 (and one posthumously in 2006), John released five extremely successful albums with American, winning Grammies, other music awards, and gushing critical acclaim. They are among his best-selling albums.

It seems to me there are several similarities here. I’m not saying Dolly’s albums would be as successful as John’s but to shut the door in her face seems … petty. And greedy. And just plain wrong. Well after P. Diddy and 50 Cent are forgotten, long after the Jonas Brothers go the way of Hanson and the Pussycat Dolls make like Spice Girls and split, the name of Dolly Parton will be going strong. That’s something to be harnessed and capitalized on, not shoved aside and ignored.

And ask yourself this … would those same companies have turned down Cher? Did they pull the rug on Michael Jackson or refuse Madonna? Same stature, different genre, and the only difference is money money money. Madonna is a proven cash cow. Jackson was, too. And while Dolly will likely never hit those heights of dividend for her label, I could never be convinced she would lose their money, either. At any rate, it’s the big recording companies who will lose in the end. It’s just a shame that some of their listening base will lose, too.

On an aside, it was at the Grand Ole Opry, while still in her teens, that Dolly Parton first met Johnny Cash. And he encouraged her to go where her heart took her, and not to care what others thought. For John and George and Loretta and Porter and all the other great voices of our musical past who are overlooked and often outright forgotten … go Dolly.

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I don’t keep up with many recording artists. The pool of popular people changes too rapidly for me to notice even half of them, and most of the half I do notice have little to offer. But there are, of course, exceptions.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’ve heard of Pink and listened to her songs on the radio. From her 2000 debut song “There You Go” to her latest and biggest hit yet, “So What,” Pink has belted out noteworthy songs across five albums. In 2001, with Missundaztood, arguably her most well-known album, and a slice of the global hit “Lady Marmalade” in her pocket, she seemed to find her voice and hit her stride. Between 2002 and 2007 two more albums came out and she was married in 2006 to motocross racer Carey Hart. (They separated in 2008 and are “trying to work it out”). And then last fall came her latest album, Funhouse, producing her biggest hit to date (also the first of her albums I actually bought).

[Please note: the unedited album contains some explicit lyrics; the edited version does not but is still not suitable for children or “tweens.”]

Pink has gathered quite a following with her pull-no-punches attitude and songs to match. Perhaps more interesting are the chinks in her armor where she displays surprising vulnerability without drifting into the maudlin. Funhouse is a great mix of the two, a step up I believe, while retaining all the bite that appealed in her previous albums.

“So… So what! I’m still a rock star. I got my rock moves, And I don’t need you. And guess what? I’m having more fun… And you’re a tool…”

her wonderfully rough voice announces in track #1, “So What.” If you haven’t seen the music video, you’re missing a good thing.

As for the album tracks that follow “So What,” well they certainly don’t disappoint.

“I don’t wanna be the girl that has to fill the silence. The quiet scares me ’cause it screams the truth.” [Sober]

“I’m drinking wine and thinking bliss Is on the other side of this… I’ve had my chances and I’ve taken them all, Just to end up right back here on the floor…” [Crystal Ball]

“If the darkest hour comes before the light, Where is the light? Where is the light?” [Ave Mary A]

“Have you ever wished for an endless night? …Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?” [Glitter In the Air]

It’s a good mix of fun and serious and is, I think, by far her best album. There you go.

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