Dolly Parton Brings Stephen Colbert to Tears in Emotional Serenade

Dolly Parton's music has likely made millions of people cry at one point, and Stephen Colbert is no exception. Parton appeared as a guest on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert this week and while in attendance, brought the host to tears during a spontaneous performance of the bluegrass standard "Bury Me Beneath the Willow."

Parton had been discussing songs her late mother, Avie Lee Owens, used to sing to her when she broke out into song with "Bury Me Beneath the Willow." As Parton sang, Colbert was visibly moved, taking off his glasses to dab at his eyes and miming to someone off-camera that he was getting "goosebumps."

"Oh, you're crying? So I better hush before you cry yourself to death and you can’t finish the show," Parton said when she noticed Colbert tearing up. Wiping his eyes, Colbert laughed and told her, "Like a lot of Americans, I’m under a lot of stress right now, Dolly. You got my tripwire right there, I'll tell you. That was pretty beautiful."

Parton noted that she and her siblings "used to cry when Mama would sing. Mama would cry, we'd cry. Those old songs were just amazing," she said. "Isn't it funny that sometimes there's nothing happier than a cry?" Colbert asked her. "Yeah, I think that cleanses your soul," Parton replied. "I think water's good to wash it out. That's what tears are for, I think."

"Bury Me Beneath the Willow" was named by Parton as an example of a story song, and she shared that telling stories is important to her with her own material as well. "I write songs, but I tell stories in my songs," she said. "There's just something about writing songs that's kind of like my personal time with God."

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The interview was focusing on Parton's songwriting career and her upcoming book, Songteller, and the Tennessee native explained that writing is a way for her to work through her own feelings and help others express how they might be feeling.

"I just feel like I can express myself in ways that I don't need a doctor for, I don't need therapy, I just sing it all out, write it all out," she said. "I can write for other people too like you said. Because I see things happen to other people and I think, 'They don't know how to express how they feel.' They're depressed or they're sad, so I write songs for them as well."