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Dolly Parton Mired in Glastonbury Lip Sync Controversy

July 1, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  25 Comments

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Over the weekend, the UK was swept up in their equivalent to America’s Bonaroo or ACL Fest—the multi-genre mega-festival known as Glastonbury, which transpires near Pilton, Somerset in England every early summer. On Sunday, Dolly Parton was one of the festival’s featured performers, filling an afternoon spot at the festival’s main Pyramid Stage in front of a crowd estimated at somewhere around 100,000 people. Parton is currently on a world tour promoting her recent album Blue Smoke.

Dolly was one of the most anticipated artists at Glastonbury, and many festival goers suited up in Dolly costumes and made signs for the legendary country singer, illustrating that Dolly’s appeal is quite international. However during and after her set, controversy began to swirl that the 68-year-old singer was lip syncing, or as they call it in England “miming” to a pre-recorded track.

When prominent Sky News anchor Kay Burley tweeted out, “Oh, Dolly is miming. How disappointing” during Dolly’s set, the controversy started in earnest. Dolly’s performance was broadcast live by the BBC, and many viewers were watching the set transpire at home, some of which had similar reactions to Dolly’s set.

However others came to Dolly’s defense. While watching the broadcast, there was certainly some delay in what viewers were seeing and hearing, and it was pronounced more at various times in the set than others. British comedian Stephen Fry took to Twitter to blame this on an “HD live processor” that could create latency between sight and sound. I think I know quite a lot about how TV is made. Why are people saying Dolly Parton is miming? She’s fooling me… Believe me, that is not miming. If it appears not always to lip-sync that’s an HD live processor issue. You see it with news reporters.”

A Dolly Parton spokesperson also came to Dolly’s defense, telling the UK’s Sunday Mirror, “No, she sings live. Some people don’t know an amazing singer when they hear one. This should not overshadow what was truly a great gig and accomplished performance. Dolly adored every single moment.”

However  as some have pointed out, in 2004 in a statement to fan website Dollymania, Dolly said, “Yes, there are portions of the songs in the show that are prerecorded. I tell you that at the beginning of the show when I say, ‘If you notice some enhancement or doctoring in the show, it’s not to fool or trick anyone. It’s an effort to entertain by being able to have a bigger production and, hopefully, a better sound.”

Between each song, Dolly was quite talkative, so her mic was clearly live during portions of the performance. But if she used per-recorded portions for her open-air Glastonbury set, Parton is not fessing up to it. “My boobs are fake, my hair’s fake but what’s real is my voice and my heart,” she told The Sun after the lip-syncing accusations.

Also while at Glastonbury, Dolly Parton was presented with a surprise accolade for selling 100 million records total worldwide.

25 Comments to “Dolly Parton Mired in Glastonbury Lip Sync Controversy”

  • She was not lip syncing at all, It might have been delayed but Dolly was singing, when your as good as her you don’t have too.

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    • Tim McGraw should be banned from CMA or any award show. He hit a woman! Our athlete –American athletes– are publicly held to standards –so should he. Hitting a woman is hitting a woman. With all his experience, he knows to have guards in place for stuff like grabbing. Look at all the public displays of affections in the past from Faith Hill towards Tim. Did he slap her? No. He stuck it in her. We like our athletes too. or do we give these athletes a cowboy hat and guitar and say it is okay to hit women. I love country music but hat violence against women.

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  • This really sucks.

    I need to watch more of the concert for myself, but for me the accusations that Dolly lip-synched as well as “mimed” the playing of various instruments are both too numerous and too specific to ignore. (Various writers have claimed that she specifically dropped words in songs she was “performing,” which is something that TV sound lag problems can’t account for.) Compound this with the fact that Dolly fans and concert-goers have been making these claims for years, long before this particular controversy, along with the fact that Dolly has seemingly admitted to using pre-recorded tracks in the past, and I am forced to to conclude that Dolly probably has been using these techniques as part of her show for a while now. This particular concert has just brought the issue under wider scrutiny. And frankly, if Dolly did lip-sync, I think it was foolish of her to do so at a concert that was broadcast live on TV as an entire nation watched. Obviously people are going to notice and comment online. And besides, I think people at music festivals expect an honest live performance.

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    • I’ll say this:

      On Sunday, video of Dolly’s full set from Glastonbury materialized on YouTube, and right after I saw a link to it, I sat down and watched it in its entirety (it has since been pulled). Anyone who comes to Saving Country Music often probably doesn’t need to be convinced that Dolly Parton would be considered much more friend than foe around these parts. Without any knowledge of the miming controversy brewing over in the UK, after about 15 minutes of watching, I was pretty convinced Dolly was lip syncing at least some of the performances. Now, could I be convinced that it was due to some technical issue with HD coding? Sure. Because overall, the lack of sync with lip movement and words was fairly subtle, except for one spot that I wrote down the time of 16:34 on the video I saw, where I thought it was clear that no latency issue could explain the difference between what we were hearing and seeing when she finished up a song (one of the best times to spy a lip sync). Am I saying Dolly was lip-syncing? No. And not that I’m some expert, but having run this site for years, I’ve squinted at many an online video trying to spy lip-syncing, and I’d like to think I’m pretty decent at seeing it.

      Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and until I see CONCLUSIVE evidence that she lip synced, I have no reason to not believe her. But if someone was trying to convince me she was lip-syncing, I really wouldn’t have the grounds to argue with them. And saying “Dolly is an amazing singer!” really is no true rebuttal. Of course she’s an amazing singer.

      I’m sure a few people are angry that I posted this story. But if I’m going to run stories on Rascal Flatts and Scotty McCreery getting caught red handed lip syncing, it is only fair that I present what happened with another artist, and in the lack of anything conclusive, let people decide for themselves.

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      • I’ve only watched the embedded clip of Jolene, but I’ll just say this: those vocals are damn clean for a headset mic at an outdoor festival.

        It’s sad when our country heroes lose their pipes. Even though it was heart breaking to watch, I have more respect for George Jones rasping and wheezing out his songs live to the very end than those succumbing to the use of prerecorded music.

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        • But one of the things about this is I have no doubt Dolly can sing live, and does, and probably did at Glastonbury even if some of the performances were pre-recorded. Her voice is still as good as ever. IF she did lip-sync, it could have just been because of what she perceived as the importance of the show, or because it was in an outdoor setting, or who knows.

          I agree though, I’d rather watch an imperfect performance than a pre-recorded one.

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          • For the record, I’m not sure that she was lip syncing either, but there is certainly some evidence that suggests it. Even though I’m sure she can sing great live, I’m not sure that microphone can make it sound that good. Listen to the difference in sound quality between her crowd banter and the first line of the song.

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          • I had that observation too when I was watching the set, and it was one of the pieces of evidence to corroborate lip-syncing, just as much as the out-of-sync lips to sound. But her monitor man could have different mic settings for talking and singing. Who knows.

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      • Dolly is my favorite artist of all time hands down, and I have seen her three times in the past few years as well as having watched this performance in its entirety, in addition to many hundreds of performance clips on TV shows etc.

        Dolly lip-syncs. Not always. But yes, some of the tracks are pre-recorded. For example, ’9 To 5′ has a specific live version that she replicates exactly every time.
        Although I would prefer if she sang live every time, I understand why she doesn’t. Dolly sings and talks A LOT and especially being in the midst of a world tour, you don’t want to overstrain your voice.

        Think how many acts have to have surgery on their vocal chords or cancel dates to rest their voice? I can’t remember a time Dolly has needed that. If she has, it wasn’t anything major. She works so much she would probably rather mime a few familiar tracks rather than ruin her voice. It should be noted too that when she performed at Glastonbury (a couple of days after I last saw her live), she had been touring for 6 months, among a huge launch of her latest album that included 2 months of promo.

        She’s 68 and she still works her little butt off in 5 inch heels night after night and frankly I applaud the fact she doesn’t mime the whole thing!

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  • The appeal of Dolly Parton is supposed to be that beneath the wigs, false eyelashes, falsies, canned showbiz jokes and so forth, there are certain important qualities that are totally geunine: the songs, the talent, and the heart of the woman. This is the idea that Dolly has used to market herself over the years, and that the public has accepted. (She even said as much in her statement deyning that she lip-synced.) Anyway, if even her live performances are canned, it further cuts away at the underlying reality that makes her a compelling artist and perfomer in the first place, to the extent that the phony eclipses the genuine. I really hope I’m wrong though, most of all becasue if Dolly was lip-syncing, then she lied to the press about not doing it, and I really don’t want to believe that.

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    • On second thought, upon examining Dolly and her spokeperson’s statments again, I notice that neither explicitly states that she didn’t lip-sync. Dolly said “what’s real is my voice and my heart,” which does not preclude the use of pre-recorded tracks of Dolly’s voice. The spokesperson said “Dolly sings live,” which is not a denial, especially considering that Dolly probably did sing a couple of the songs live, as apparently mixing live and pre-recorded vocals throughout a concert is her typical practice. So, if Dolly did lip-sync, neither her nor her spoksperson technically lied about it.

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  • She certainly mimed the autoharp during ‘Coat of Many Colours’, as she does with a lot of instruments these days, but it’s harder to tell with her voice – Stephen Fry may have had a point regarding the delay. My guess is parts were mimed, parts weren’t.

    Dolly Parton is one of the greatest female singer-songwriters who has ever lived, but we all have our limits. To be honest, I found her performance rather forced and some of her banter very old hat – but that’s probably to be expected when playing to a festival crowd. It’s also sad that she’s had so much work done now that she no longer looks much like herself, but that’s by the by.

    I think Dolly is approaching a point in her career – or maybe she’s already passed it – where she’s becoming a caricature of herself. Lip-syncing and any pre-recorded aspects of her show are not going to help. I understand people enjoy her glitzy, deliberately over-the-top shows, but it may be a good time for her to strip things back. Maybe try it for one tour and see how it goes. That said, if she’s not able to perform at 100% for a full set then perhaps she needs to re-think performing live altogether. Sad to say.

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  • Dolly is an actor, a model, a musician, a singer, and song-writer…What do all of these roles have in common? Performance. A woman of her age (or man, for that matter) must face difficulties with pitch consistency, and volume projection from time to time. I wouldn’t fault her for “miming” small portions of her show. I would fault her for “miming” entire songs.

    The way I see it, she is a performer trying to give her audience the best sounds and sights that she can.

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  • Forgot to add – the respected British music journalist David Hepworth said on Twitter yesterday that he saw Dolly live 10 years ago and even then she was using an autocue for everything. So perhaps any lip-syncing is as much to do with memorising songs as anything else.

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  • I can’t speak for the entire show, but I watched the clip above and have watched the clip with Richie Sambora doing “Lay Your Hands on Me”. While I can’t make a distinctive claim one way or the other on those two songs, and I’m pretty good at spotting this type of thing, I will say that the end of “Lay Your Hands” is definitely live. That being said, her voice sounds the same throughout the song.

    Just thought I’d throw that out here.

    I’m with Trig, though, I can’t really make a claim one way or the other. If you’re looking for signs of lip syncing, you can probably find it. If you’re looking for proof of live singing, you can find that as well. If, in the two clips I have seen, she’s lip syncing, she does it pretty well, as it wasn’t blatantly obvious to me.

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  • I wouldn’t be surprised if there was lip-synching going on for some parts. I mean Madonna denied it too and it was soooo obviousit seems to be the soup de jour because performers don’t have the stamina. But really haven’t people been miming since the early days of American Bandstand (though to be fair that was not a concert environment? It seems to me the only thing that has changed is people denying it.

    Why is anyone shocked anymore? For her to lie, which as someone pointed out she didn’t exactly do, would be a shame. But otherwise I am not surprised though it does lesson the performance for me. And I don’t buy the old age angel totally, sure it may be true that SHE can’t carry a full concert without backup but many at her age can. Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey… One way to tell if it is live is to see if they ever run out of breath. I saw Daniela Mercury and she couldn’t hold some notes because of all the energy she used up dancing. Same for watching Tina Turner concert videos.

    And now that I think of it I am pretty sure Shania Twain who I saw at her peak was lip-synching I remember thinking some songs sounded EXACTLY like the album cuts.

    I also agree Dolly should strip down her act and get back to her roots, and by roots I mean the musician she was before Dollywood and 9 to 5 and all that. I am kind of tired of spectacle arena shows at this point that older seem to feel the need to do to maintain relevancy, with a few exceptions (Bruce Springsteen). They try to hard to wow but musically leave me kind feeling empty. I prefer the intimacy of a stripped down show.

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  • This clip is the most damning evidence I’ve seen. (It’s only seven seconds long.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojZ-axEB2mw

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  • Kacey Musgraves was there too singing acoustically with her back up guitarist/boyfriend and there seems to be no “technical issues” with her set. But of the benefit of the doubt she was on a different stage with less technical stuff.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p021tlym

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  • I’ve seen similar stories in the past about Dolly and remember seeing something on her website about parts of her performance being ‘enhanced’ (no schoolboy sniggering at the back please!).

    I saw Dolly at Wembley a while back and though I admit it was a good show I found the whole experience a bit too showbiz for my taste. There was lots of talk at the time about her miming on that European tour but I can’t honestly say I noticed anything. Then I saw her a few years later at the Marty Stuart jam at the Ryman singing with Marty and his band in a more back to basics setting and thought she was fantastic. Maybe a step away from the big events and venues into smaller theatres would be a idea?

    We don’t get a lot of positive coverage of country music in the media over here in the UK and it was nice to see Dolly appearing on the front pages of almost every newspaper on Monday morning. Seems a shame it all has to be followed up by these stories ….

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  • Every man’s dream woman–a rich, big-titted, mime.

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  • Interesting controversy here. As a professional singer/player and huge fan of Dolly’s musical talents I watched the entire concert . Not only did I not detect any evidence of her lip-syncing but I was totally impressed by her ability to carry the ball performance-wise at that show .
    If you need proof of just how amazingly dead on her vocals are , don’t listen to the incredible job she does on BLUE SMOKE , her latest release . Yes its stunning vocally and I’m convinced it too ,is un-enhanced in that department . Listen to the original versions of her early releases recorded pre AUTOTUNE and ‘fix-it-in-the-mix’ days . It will blow your mind just how flawless her vocals are.I could cite many many more examples of her ability to nail a melody guesting on albums and songs by other artists but I think I’ve made my point.

    Its obvious Dolly is completely comfortable in front of any sized crowd at this point in her career and this concert was the proof , if we needed that . Yes ..perhaps the banter was a bit ‘showy’ and cheesy …but I never doubted it came from an honest , sincere place and a commitment to delivering an hour of top notch , expertly -paced entertainment -a tried and true show built on her most well-known and time-tested material ALL written by Dolly ( with the Bon-Jovi exception that she noted to the crowd ) . She had that mostly young rock crowd in the palm of her hands to the point where they could be seen singing along to lyrics WITH her and WITHOUT her help at various times . 20 year old kids singing the lyrics to COAT OF MANY COLOURS ,, JOLENE, 9-5 ..etc. All written before most of that audience was born . Talk about an artist and songs that stand the test of time . And talk about ‘feeling the love’ from over 100,000 people .

    I’ll stand firm on the fact that Dolly didn’t lip sync. But I’d be no less a fan and have no less respect for her if I learned that she , in fact , did . Dolly has given more to music in her career than most would in careers twice as long , which would be impossible , of course . Had she only been a songwriter she’d have accomplished that feat . Had she only been a great performer , she’d have done the same . But when you deliver the whole package ….songwriting , performing and flawless vocals all backed by one of the tightest most professionally talented bands in the biz , an audience is going to get a terrific show every time out .She continues to amaze , impress and endear herself to me as a professional on all fronts . And her new record BLUE SMOKE is, again , testament to that fact . The woman loves what she’s doing and we seem to love her doing it .

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  • I absolutely love Dolly Parton’s voice and most of her pre-1974 body of work. I even find some merit in her work from “The Grass is Blue” and a few more recent recordings. Having said that however she is better to be listened to than looked at for all the obvious reasons. Let’s not forget what wretched crap she produced from say 1976 through 1999. She is the model for taking what she could from country, turning her back on it, and then returning when her pop idol and hack acting days were played out. In fairness her transgressions, including her Frederick’s of Hollywood mannequin-esque appearance, were all business. She will always be one of the iconic voices in music regardless of genre and her impact on music is beyond reproach. Just wish she wouldn’t have phonied it up so much.

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  • Wow. I guess you wish she was a cookie cutter image of everyone else. Where are they?

    Kathy Mattea and all of the rest of them are long gone.

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  • who cares about lily syncing. what i want to really know is…

    was she really playing “yakkety sax” ????!!!!!!

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  • She’s pure hollywood, pop, crap, I could care less how good she can sing, she’s a sham, it’s sad and pathetic.

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