country music

David from Washington, DC (left) Josef Just (right)

Patti LaBelle and Dolly Parton created the genre-busting duet we didn’t know we needed.

If you were to choose two female artists on the opposite ends of the musical spectrum, it wouldn't be a reach to say Dolly Parton and Patti LaBelle. Parton made a name for herself in the country music world long before "crossover artists" diluted the twangy sound of country music to more resemble pop. And Patti LaBelle has long been an R & B, soul and gospel legend, without nary a banjo or yeehaw in sight.

But talent is talent and both of these women have musical talent oozing out of their (highly manicured) fingertips.

A video from 1987 has re-emerged showing the two women talking on Parton's variety show, "Dolly." Parton was explaining to LaBelle how she often uses her fingernails as instruments.

“I write a lot of songs when I don’t have my guitar,” Parton said. “I beat around the dashboard of my car when I’m riding around writing songs, but then I have a little rhythm that we can do with these acrylic nails.”

Then she and LaBelle launched into a nail duet, which morphed into a gorgeous two-part harmony, of the folk classic "Shortnin' Bread."


Dolly Parton & Patti LaBelle play 'Shortnin' Bread' on their Acrylic Nails

People loved seeing these big stars' big 80s hair, big nails and big vocal talent.

"Two women who hold a special place in my heart. Probably everyone’s heart," wrote one person.

"I luv how Patty just came right on in with that TIGHT harmony," wrote another. "That's a true vocalist with natural, God given abilities."

"I've always liked Dolly Parton's music, energy, country accent, just her whole vibe. And Patti Labelle is auntie who can shatter crystal with her vocal range," added another.

"Divas. Pure unadulterated talent and joy. God, don't they sound great together? Love you Miss Patti, love you Miss Dolly," shared another.

And by the way, Parton wasn't making a joke when she said she wrote songs with her nails. She literally used them while writing and recording her 1980 hit "9 to 5."

“When I actually wrote ["9 to 5"] I used my acrylic nails on the set when I was writing it. I did because they make noise and it sounded like a typewriter to me,” she told Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show." “I played it on the actual record, it says 'Nails by Dolly' on the album!” she added.


@Dolly Parton’s nails are credited in #9to5 💅 #FallonFlashback #DollyParton

When musicians have true talent, they can make just about any kind of music sound magical, anywhere, any time, with any instrument—even when all they have are their voices and some fancy fingernails.

It's been nearly 40 years since this clip aired, and both of these rockstar women are still going strong. Dolly Parton has become a beloved national treasure not only for her music and sunny disposition but for her efforts to increase literacy with her Imagination Library book donation program. And "Godmother of Soul" Patti LaBelle has expanded her talents to the business world, launching Patti's Good Life food company in 2007 and growing it into a $200 million venture.

Pop Culture

Tracy Chapman makes rare appearance to sing 'Fast Car' with Luke Combs at the Grammys

The late 80s hit is finding new life as a country song—and topping the charts.

Hans Hillewaeart, WIkipedia, David Bergman/Wikipedia

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs performed an epic duet of "Fast Car" at the 2024 Grammys.

It had been rumored that Tracy Chapman might be making an appearance at the Grammys this year, after Luke Combs’ country version of her iconic song “Fast Car” earned a grammy nomination.

Combs' rendition of the late 80s classic, which won him Song of the Year at 2023 Country Music Awards, has been met with both great praise and great criticism.

Many applauded Combs for giving the tune a major resurgence and even bringing it to a whole new audience. At the same time, some took umbrage with the fact that Combs’ version had placed higher on the Billboard Hot 100 charts than Chapman’s original and argued that it was a symptom of long-endured racism within the country music genre.

Chapman eventually came out of her private life to endorse Combs’ cover, saying, “I’m happy for Luke and his success and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”

Which brings us to the opening half hour of the Grammy 2024 Awards, where both Chapman and Combs appeared on stage in matching all-black outfits to perform a moving duet. This made for a landmark appearance for Chapman, who hadn’t performed publicly in several years.

As they sang, audiences mouthed the words and clapped along. Some songs really do have the power to bring folks of all walks of life together.


“Fast Car” has struck a chord with listeners since that seemingly fateful night at Wembley Stadium in 1988, when a few technical difficulties led Chapman to performing it as a backup plan, unwittingly stepping into musical history. Fans love the folk anthem for its raw simplicity and vivid depiction of yearning, brought to life by Chapman’s one-of-a-kind voice.

And even though there’s no replacing her original hit, the collaboration with Combs has led to some amazing genre-busting breakthroughs. Back in November of 2023, Chapman also reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s Country Songwriters chart and won song of the year for “Fast Car,” making her the first Black woman to win a Country Music Association award.

Then a mere moments after Chapman’s Grammy performance with Combs, “Fast Car” shot to No. 1 on iTunes Top Songs. Her debut album from 1988, titled “Tracy Chapman,” also shot to No. 1.

Art is subjective, but it stands to reason that a work of art can be considered great if it continues moving people time and time again. Chapman’s art certainly has this kind of staying power, and it’s wonderful anytime that achievement gets recognition.


Ruby Leigh on "The Voice"

Few music genres are as polarizing as country music. For the most part, you either love the twangy sounds of honky tonk, or it makes your ears bleed.

And perhaps nothing epitomizes this quite like yodeling (yes, yes, yodeling might have originations beyond country music, but nowadays it is very closely linked with country music).

Generally speaking, yodeling is often seen as something old-fashioned, annoying, even cartoony. More likely to be used as the butt of a joke—similar to bagpipes—rather than seen as the very difficult and otherworldly art form that it actually is.

But every so often, someone comes around to remind us that when done well, yodeling can feel just as dazzling as a Mariah Carey whistle tone.

And that person was 16-year-old singer Ruby Leigh, who left all four judges with their jaws on the floor for her first impression audition on NBC’s “The Voice.”

Hailing from a small town in Missouri, armed with her black guitar that perfectly matched her country western outfit, Leigh began singing Patsy Montana’s "I Want to Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart.”

Almost immediately after she began battling her heart out, judge John Legend turned around in his seat.

But then, when she unleashed her secret weapon, all bets were off.

All three judges, including Gwen Stefani, Niall Horan and country western queen Reba McEntire turned around to see where such a piercing sound was coming from.

Plus…the camera pans over to Leigh’s mother, father and sister overcome with emotion as she lights up the stage. If you watch closely, you’ll even see Leigh’s father tearfully yelling "I told you, Ruby!” It’s seriously a bit of a tearjerker moment.


After Leigh finished her song, Stefani and McEntire both shared a little bit of their yodeling gifts, with McEntire sharing how “flattered” that the young performer honored a tradition passed down in her own family.

We might all have our individual tastes, but sometimes…good music is simply good music. It’s a gift when artists of any kind are able to transcend the limitation of genre or mainstream opinion and truly inspire people. Way to go Ruby.

Dolly Parton is winning people's hearts yet again with her humility and class.

Few famous folks are as universally beloved as Dolly Parton. Somehow, she has managed to attract the admiration and respect of people across ages, races, regions, political persuasions and musical tastes. Even people who don't particularly like country music [raises hand] love Dolly.

Considering how much of a joke people made of her in her younger years, her broad appeal is impressive. It's also super simple. Dolly Parton is a genuinely good human being. She is generous, she is kind, she handles herself with class when people try to mess with her, and she continually does good deeds without boasting. Don't let the facade of the big hair and makeup fool you—Dolly Parton is as real as they come.

Now, once again, Dolly is winning hearts with her humility after being nominated to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Dolly was first nominated to the honor in February, joining the likes of Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, Eminem, Eurythmics, Rage Against the Machine, Lionel Richie and Dionne Warwick as potential inductees. But in posts on Facebook and Twitter, she shared that she "must respectfully bow out" of the running and explained why.

She wrote:

"Dolly here! Even though I am extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I don't feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out. I do hope that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will understand and be willing to consider me again - if I'm ever worthy. This has, however, inspired me to put out a hopefully great rock 'n' roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do! My husband is a total rock 'n' roll freak, and has always encouraged me to do one. I wish all of the nominees good luck and thank you again for the compliment. Rock on!"

So not only does the 76-year-old country star think she hasn't earned a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she also doesn't want her name to split the vote for those she feels do deserve the nomination.

People have responded with praise for Dolly's character. Even Dictionary.com weighed in, saying she defined the word "humility."

People also disagreed with her claim that she doesn't deserve the nomination, basically saying that her awesomeness as a human being qualifies her for any and every hall of fame.

Nailed it.

Even within the question of "Is she really rock 'n' roll, though?" people shared differing opinions. While she is a country music singer, her songwriting has crossed genres, and other musicians whose music is not purely rock 'n' roll have already been inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

We can quibble about the technicalities of what counts as rock 'n' roll all day long, but it doesn't really matter because Dolly has spoken. She may not be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this time around, but she's definitely been inducted into the America's Most Beloved Celebrities of All Time Hall of Fame.

Keep being Dolly, Dolly. You've already won the hearts of people everywhere and that's what counts the most.