Dolly Parton may be honored by the Tennessee State Legislature this year after all, with a new house bill recently introduced in the state legislature calling for the country icon's version of the classic hymn "Amazing Grace" to become the state's official hymn. Introduced by lawmakers Rep. Mike Sparks and Sen. Raumesh Akbari, House Bill 938 declared that "it is fitting that this General Assembly should recognize songs of historic
significance that have influenced this State."
"Amazing Grace" was written in the 1770s by John Newton, and much of the bill discusses the songwriter's life. Newton experienced a spiritual conversion after his ship was caught in a severe storm in 1748 and began reading the Bible before working to become ordained as a priest. That journey led him to speak out against slavery and support the abolishment of the practice. The bill acknowledges that the song has been recorded by a number of artists with ties to Tennessee including Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson and Aretha Franklin, and there were no specifics given as to why Parton's version was chosen.
Parton has long performed the Christian hymn and included it on her 1999 album Precious Memories. She also recontextualized the hymn as the song "Shine On" on her 1998 album Hungry Again.
Reports of the bill, which was introduced earlier this month, come after Parton gracefully requested that previously proposed legislation to erect a statue of the singer on the grounds of the State Captiol be halted. "I want to thank the Tennessee legislature for their consideration of a bill to erect a statue of me on the Capitol grounds," she shared in a statement on her social media accounts on Feb. 18.
"I am honored and humbled by their intention but I have asked the leaders of the state legislature to remove the bill from any and all consideration." Parton explained, "given all that is going on in the world, I don't think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time." The country icon added that she hopes that "somewhere down the road several years from now or perhaps after I'm gone if you still feel I deserve it, then I'm certain I will stand proud in our great State Captiol as a grateful Tennessean." She concluded, "In the meantime, I'll continue to try to do good work to make this great state proud."