Dolly Parton revealed that Ronnie Van ZantLynyrd Skynyrd’s widow gave him permission to use the late singer Lynyrd Skynyrd’s vocals on his new cover of the southern rock band’s classic song. Free Bird.
Speaking in the brand new issue of Classic rock magazine, the country icon shares how she ended up covering the song for her new rock album, Rock starwhich also features appearances from Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx and former Bon Jovi guitarist. Richie SamboraGov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes, Peter Frampton and more.
Parton’s 11-minute cover, which closes the album, was produced through her bandleader and producer Kent Wells, although it had initially been reserved for another project entirely.
“Kent Wells has been my guitarist, arranger/producer and bandleader for about 30 years,” says Parton. Classic rockIt’s Rob Hughes. “When I was about to do Rock star, he was busy producing an album for Lynyrd Skynyrd. They knew Kent was working with me, so they asked me if I wanted to sing on a new version of Free Bird. And it went really well.
“Later, I said to Kent, ‘What if we put Free Bird on my rock album too, if we get permission from them? So that’s what we did. Then Ronnie Van Zant’s widow said she would let us use her voice on the track. She didn’t allow Lynyrd Skynyrd to do it, but she said, “I’ll do it for Dolly!” So we have to use Ronnie there. We had already recorded it, but his phrasing was so simple that they just added his vocals.
The song also features members of Skynyrd themselves, including original guitarist Gary Rossington and former drummer Artimus Pyle.
“Some of them hadn’t met in a while, but one of their daughters said, ‘You have to do this!'” Parton says. “So they mended some fences there, and I felt very lucky to be a part of that.”
Sadly, Parton’s epic rendition of Free Bird now serves as an epitaph for guitarist Rossington, who passed away last March.
“We were heartbroken when this happened, because we had done this track with Gary not long before,” she says. “Right now, some of my team are doing their best to see if we can actually get some footage of Gary and Ronnie Van Zant and try to put it into a possible video. I would love it to work. Wouldn’t that be something?
Read the full interview with Dolly Parton, plus collaborators Rob Halford, Peter Frampton and Richie Sambora, in the all-new issue of Classic rock. Order it online now and have it delivered straight to your door.