Dolly Parton Says She’s Been Asked to Join Cast of ‘American Idol’

Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton

Getty Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton performing together in 2010

Country music icon Dolly Parton revealed in a new interview that she’s been asked multiple times to join the judging panel on “American Idol,” which already includes her longtime friend Lionel Richie. But Parton revealed she’s repeatedly turned down offers from the show, as well as inquiries from producers at NBC’s “The Voice,” because she’s not sure she could stomach saying “no” to hopeful musicians. But the 10-time Grammy winner watches the shows, loves many of the stars to come out of “Idol” and left the door open to appearing on the show, which launches its 21st season on February 19, 2023.

Dolly Parton Says ‘I Really Have Trouble Judging People’

Dolly Parton

GettyDolly Parton was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in November 2022

In a January 2023 interview with Taste of Country, Parton said she gets “offers all the time” to appear on talent shows but that she’s not sure she’s cut out for being a judge on “American Idol” or “The Voice.”

“I get asked every season to be on,” Parton said. “I really have trouble judging people. I would have a lot of trouble telling them yes or no — especially no.”

She continued, “I just always hate to see them lose, even though I’m very proud of the ones that win, and they deserve it, because the public (votes) on that. But I just feel their little hearts. I hate it when they don’t win.”

Parton, a 2022 Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee, told Taste of Country that she’s touched so many contestants have sung her songs over the years. In 2022, “Idol” runner-up HunterGirl rose to the Top 10 by performing Parton’s classic “9 to 5” and season 16’s winner Maddie Poppe and runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson performed “Islands in the Stream” — the hit duet by Parton and Kenny Rogers — during the “Idol” reunion show.

“I love the fact that a lot of them do use different songs like ‘I Will Always Love You,’ ‘Jolene’ or ‘9 to 5,'” she said. “I hear a lot of my songs on there. That’s a great treat.”

In 2008, when “American Idol” was still on FOX, the show devoted a week of the competition to Parton, with every contestant performing her songs. But even then, she declined to judge any of their performances.

“I couldn’t go on and criticize somebody else’s singing,” she said at the time.

Parton did tell Taste of Country she’s open to serving as “a mentor or something like that,” but that she’s been daydreaming about creating her own TV talent show on her own network.

“I probably will do something like (“American Idol” or “The Voice”) in the future,” she revealed. “Maybe create a show where it could really be positive. Although those are fantastic shows. I love watching it. I would just have trouble being a judge of somebody’s talent.”

‘Idol’ Stars Have Been Vocal About Their Love of Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton and Kelly Clarkson

GettyDolly Parton and Kelly Clarkson at the Academy of Country Music Awards in March 2022

In addition to her songs being performed on “Idol” countless times over the years, Parton is beloved by many of the show’s most famous alumni.

Kelly Clarkson, the first-ever “American Idol” winner, was floored when Parton asked her to remake 1980’s “9 to 5” as a duet with her, which was released in September 2022 in conjunction with the documentary “Still Working 9 to 5.”

In a statement at the time, Clarkson said, “She is so talented, an inspiration to all women, and one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. I hope y’all like what we did, but even if you don’t, remember I got to sing a duet with the magical Dolly Parton and now have bragging rights til the end of time!”

Underwood has performed with Parton many times since her “Idol” win and, in 2020, she told BMI how Parton has continually been an inspiration to her.

“As far as her influencing my career, we’re all just trying to be Dolly, let’s be honest,” she said. “She is somebody that has set such an incredible example for all of us and paved such a path for us. There’s so many of us that it’s like, okay, if there was no Dolly, there would be no us.”

Gabby Barrett, who placed third on season 16 of “Idol” and has skyrocketed to fame since, got to co-host the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards with Parton and another “Idol” alum, Jimmie Allen. But even after working together, she didn’t quite see Parton as a peer.

“She’s still a legend to me right now,” Barrett told People magazine a month after the show. “I’ll let you know if that changes.”