On Dolly Parton Playing The Thanksgiving Halftime Show

Country music seems systemically locked out of being represented on the halftime show of the Super Bowl for the foreseeable future, despite country being the most popular genre of music in 2023. But it will be represented in the 2nd-most important halftime show of the NFL season. During the annual Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game and the Red Kettle kickoff for the Salvation Army, they have chosen Dolly Parton to be the entertainment.

Dolly Parton may be a living country legend, but the reason she landed this gig is she just released her new rock album called Rockstar, fulfilling a promise to those who voted for her to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Parton first tried to refuse the accolade, feeling her rock star bonafides were not enough. But when Dolly found out she was probably going to be inducted anyway, she acquiesced, and made one of the most anticipated albums in music all year. The 30-track monster sees Dolly Parton collaborate with Paul McCartney, Sting, Peter Frampton, Stevie Nicks, and a host of other legends from across the musical landscape.

Though it will be fun to see Dolly Parton on the 50 yard line on Turkey Day, this particular halftime performance opportunity has been notoriously disappointing in the past. With not much time to do anything more than a medley of hits, it rarely produces a “moment” like a longer performance can. We’ll have to see what kind of magic Dolly has in store, and if she relies on her country standards, or chooses instead to have a rock star performance.

Parton’s participation was facilitated in part by her appearance as a host of the ACM Awards on May 11th, which was held at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility called The Star. This is where Dolly and Charlotte Jones of the Cowboys launched the plan. These halftime kettle kickoff performances have been going on since 1997, and regularly feature country stars. Reba McEntire was the first to perform.

An issue to be concerned about with Dolly Parton is if she will sing live or lip sync. Though some will be shocked to hear this is even a concern since Dolly’s voice is still strong at age 77, her propensity for perfection means she’s been caught singing to a backing track in the past, including some accusing her of doing so at the ACM Awards, and many others making the accusation when she performed at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK in 2014.

Often these NFL performances are mimed, but we’ll just have to see how Dolly Parton handles it. Parton says she has turned down the opportunity to perform the Super Bowl halftime show numerous times previously. But amidst her nearly universal popularity and a new album, Dolly is one of the few American figures left who can bring everyone together, making her a great pick for Thanksgiving entertainment.

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