Dolly Parton is coming out with a new album, and because she's an LGBTQ+ ally, we should all be excited about Dolly’s latest music, right? After all, it includes songs with a verifiable who’s who of rock legends and other LGBTQ+ allies, including Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Lizzo, and Debbie Harry, and queer artists Melissa Etheridge, Miley Cyrus, and Elton John.
Then, for whatever reason, all those great sounds are getting drowned out with the inclusion of the inflammatory homophobe and transphobe that is Kid Rock. Where to begin? First, she has a duet with just about every great rock and roll legend still alive. McCartney, Ringo Starr, John, Pat Benatar, Nicks, and Sheryl Crow, and Parton blights this legendary lineup with the washed-up Kid Rock.
Many of these musicians are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but not Kid Rock. He’s in the WWE Hall of Fame, an organization that doesn’t bring music top of mind. From all the rock and rollers she could have chosen, why, oh why, Dolly, did you throw us under the bus and choose him? You are a legend, an icon, a global superstar. You are also not naive.
Kid Rock’s latest hateful and downright dangerous stunt was videoing himself shooting up Bud Light beer cans with a rifle, protesting Anheuser-Busch’s decision to send trans activist Dylan Mulvaney personalized Bud Light cans in celebration of her one-year anniversary of her transition. How did that simple gesture hurt him? Yet he soaked up all the glory.
When Kid Rock posted the video, the media went wild. It prompted a column I wrote about why the media was fascinated with a musician, long past his prime, who felt like he’d been “wronged” and fired a gun in protest.
It wasn’t Kid Rock who was the victim with the Bud Light imbroglio, it was Dylan Mulvaney. I took it upon myself to send my commentary to reporters who smothered all over Kid Rock, reminding them that Anheuser-Busch didn’t call out his hate as wrong and that the beer maker left Mulvaney twisting in the wind. Thankfully, most of them updated their stories.
The media eventually saw the truth, but not until Kid Rock’s video spread all over social media, only sparking more hate for the transgender community at a time when trans adults and youth desperately need all the love they can get.
Parton is all about love, which is why her decision to pair up with Kid Rock is all the more baffling and insulting. Granted, many of her country music fans are littered among all the red states that are passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation as if they were all competing against each other; however, there is a whole slew of artists she could have chosen who would have satisfied the red state haters without selecting a hater who only emboldens the hate.
What’s even more puzzling is that Dolly is a very smart woman with a very valuable brand. She is not locked in some cave at Dollywood. Five years ago, we ran a slideshow of eight times Dolly has been in our corner since 1991. She expressed her love of drag, sang an anthem to the trans community, and came out against bathroom bans.
However, there was one thing she said that caught my attention. She spoke out about people who criticize and judge LGBTQ+ people. "[Dollywood is] a place for entertainment, a place for all families, period," she said. "It's for all that. But as far as the Christians, if people want to pass judgment, they're already sinning. The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say somebody else is committing. I try to love everybody."
Thus, we can presume that Dolly loves Kid Rock despite all the hate that he levels against us. It’s not hard to find how cruel Kid Rock is. It would be easy for her to do what I did, Google “Kid Rock, history, LGBTQ+ community,” and she would have found a treasure trove of news articles where Kid Rock, with a rifle in hand, has us in his crosshairs.
And the very first thing she’d see out of the 56 million finds (all presumably reflecting very poorly on Kid Rock), would be a link to GLAAD’s Accountability Project, where the organization goes into great detail about Kid Rock’s history of disgustingly using vulgar terms in the lyrics to his songs and his adamant refusal to apologize, back down, or take back his hateful comments.
Maybe what Dolly failed to figure out or grasp, is this. None of the songs on her album contain despicable lyrics that trash gay men, lesbians, and transgender people. By including Kid Rock and putting him under the revered Dolly halo and that billion-dollar brand, she gives him cover, and by attaching her name to his, she lends credibility to his vile language.
Simply put, if someone who doesn’t know him sees his name next to hers, the implication is “Oh, he must be a good person if Dolly chooses him along with all these other luminaries.”
And, if someone does know him, and sees his name next to hers, then the implication to them is, “Oh, Dolly Parton is ok with him, so that means all the hate he emanates is ok, and by extension, it’s ok for me to use the same words he does, and carry the same hate in my heart that he does.”
And therein lies the problem. There have been some news articles that have questioned Dolly’s inclusion of Kid Rock, but then they give Dolly the benefit of the doubt, which also implicitly makes Kid Rock OK to their readers.
For example, in an article about her new album, Entertainment Weekly said, “Still, the presence of Kid Rock might raise a few eyebrows and scratch a few heads since he's known more for being the Worst than a rock singer these days, but even cowgirls get the blues and even Dollys make ill-advised decisions from time to time.”
This is not an “ill-advised” decision. This is a slap in the face to all of us at a time when we are under assault by haters and state legislatures all over the country, and from someone who should know better.
Even in her home state of Tennessee, the hate is pronounced. When I talked to LGBTQ+ ally Tennessee State Representative Gloria Johnson recently, she said, “We’ve (Tennessee) passed more anti-LGBTQ+ laws this year than any other state.”
Dolly Parton, perhaps Tennessee’s most ubiquitous resident, undoubtedly is aware of what’s going on. Why would she throw Kid Rock into a wildfire that is scorching our community?
What does Dolly do now? She can’t erase Kid Rock from her album, so we’re stuck with him as an incendiary reminder of all the hate that wrongly gets a pass in this instance.
She can apologize, but she knows as well as we do that if she does, the red-state haters will call for a boycott, and like the Bud Light fiasco, the press will run after that shining light that is Kid Rock, who would likely fire his rifle at Dolly’s album and sit back and watch the clicks multiply furiously.
Dolly has more money than she knows what to do with – and good for her! Dolly also has more love than she knows what to do with, and by joining Kid Rock, she’s shown us how much love she has for us.
John Casey is a senior editor at The Advocate.
Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.