‘People are going to be shocked’: Dolly Parton on her gospel reworking of a Bon Jovi smash

Dolly Parton’s new studio effort Blue Smoke features the expected blend of country, bluegrass and church music. She even duets with her old pal Kenny Rogers. Dig deeper, though, and there is a huge surprise waiting: Her gospel-focused reworking of Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands On Me.”

Recorded for 1988′s New Jersey, “Lay Your Hands on Me” went to No. 7 in 1989, becoming that album’s fourth Top 10 Billboard single. Somewhere along the line, it resonated beyond Bon Jovi’s core group of fans — reaching all the way into Parton’s past.

“When I first heard that song, years ago,” she said during a conference call with the media this morning, “I thought: ‘Wow, that sounds so much like a gospel tune — with asking God to lay his hands on you.’ I grew up in a Pentecostal church, where we believed in healing and laying your hands, and praying for people who were sick and all that.”

Parton says she completed this amazing transition from “with their permission and with their help. I called Jon Bon Jovi, and asked if he would be opposed for me turning it into a gospel tune — and I called Richie Sambora, who is a co-writer on it. We all three got together, and everybody threw in their thoughts and their ideas. They certainly condoned my thoughts and ideas.”

That said, anyone expecting the song’s familiar arena-rock feel is in for a jolt. Parton says she knew the reaction that most would have: “This is going to be a big surprise to people,” she said. “People are going to be shocked when they hear this one.”

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.