YouTube: Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus' Cover of 'Jolene' is a Beautiful Homage to Her Godmother

By now, you must know that Miley Cyrus' godmother is also a superstar: Dolly Parton. Just recently, Cyrus paid tribute to her dear relative on SNL'S Mother's Day special for NBC. In place of a cold open, Cyrus gave an earnest rendition of Parton's "Light of a Clear Blue Morning." But that was not the first time that the pop-crossover sensation performed a Parton cover. In 2012, Cyrus sang the classic "Jolene" as part of The Backyard Sessions, Cyrus' ongoing YouTube series.

Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton

Miley Cyrus was born Destiny Hope Cyrus on November 23, 1992, to country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and his wife Tish Cyrus. Billy Ray had met Dolly Parton that same year, after the release of his smash-hit song "Achy Breaky Heart" sent the young crooner on tour with the country music legend herself. The pair instantly became close and Dolly Parton was named godmother of little Destiny... who later became the Disney pop star, Hannah Montana.

On Hannah Montana, Miley played a version of herself: Miley Stewart, a teenage girl living in Malibu with her father Robby Stewart — played by Billy Ray himself. Of course, the seemingly normal teen actually moonlighted as the pop sensation Hannah Montana. Hijinks ensue. And given the father-daughter duo's real-life ties, many celebrities made cameos throughout the long series of Miley's misadventures. Most notable among them? Dolly Parton, who played the recurring character of the Stewarts' Aunt Dolly.

Read More: Dolly Parton's Best TV Show Appearances, From 'Designing Women' to 'Hannah Montana'

On-air, Aunt Dolly was a supportive and inspiring relative. And in reality, their bond is just as tight. Having never had children of her own, Parton remains close with her granddaughter. Of her goddaughter Miley Cyrus, she told Marie Claire in 2020: "I've always loved her, since she was little, and I knew she was special. She just had a light about her. Her sparkle, and her smile, and her eyes were always full of wonder."

Miley Cyrus Sings Jolene

Of course, Cyrus has song "Jolene" multiple times. After all, it is one of her godmother's greatest hits! She joined Parton onstage for a special duet back in 2010 (watch that video above) and in 2019, the pair appeared alongside a cappella group Pentatonix for a riveting rendition on The Voice. But there's something about Cyrus' gravelly, acoustic solo from The Backyard Sessions that really showcases the range of this 1974 hit.

The Backyard Sessions

In 2012, Cyrus launched The Backyard Sessions: a series of pared-down music videos shot in, surprise, surprise, a backyard! (Presumably, Miley's?) Performing mainly retro hits, the proceeds were meant to benefit Cyrus' own charity, The Happy Hippie Foundation which aids youth homelessness, specifically in the LGBTQ community.

Since The Backyard Sessions first premiered in 2012, Cyrus has revived the project multiple times. But the best song, in our opinion, is of course her official video for Jolene! In that same understated session, Cyrus also sang "Look What They've Done to My Song" by Melanie Safka and Jeff Buckley's "Lilac Wine." Following that excellent set, the project was revived in 2015 when Cyrus sang "Don't Dream It's Over" with Ariana Grande. Then the Backyard Sessions was abandoned for several years until in 2020, a new showcase was produced by MTV Unplugged. Those newer vids offer a glimpse into Cyrus' more modern and stylized aesthetic.

This current era of Miley Cyrus — rocker-chic Plastic Hearts Miley — has only showcased Cyrus' aptitude for unique covers of classic songs. So far, her takes on Blondie, The Cranberries, Stevie Nicks, Billy Idol, and Joan Jett have all gone viral. The former three, who are some of Cyrus' personal idols, have also collaborated with the reinvented singer.

Now Watch: Dolly Parton Announces New Dollywood Resort, HeartSong Lodge