“God made me for a reason, and nothing is in vain
Redemption comes in many shapes, with many kinds of pain
Oh sweet Jesus, if you’re listening, keep me ever close to you
As I’m stumblin’, tumblin’, wanderin’, as I’m travelin’ thru”
Written by Dolly Parton
Produced by Dolly Parton
Taken from the album Transamerica: Original Soundtrack
By now I’ve said basically everything a million times but one thing I need to shout from the mountains of Appalachia is that Dolly Parton is somewhere in the region of the greatest songwriter of all time. Very few songwriters have such a rich and varied body of work, stretching out over so many years. In the late nineties, like her contemporaries Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash, Dolly went through a career reinvention to establish herself as a veteran in the competitive and very different modern country scene. While Loretta ventured into the world of alt-country, Johnny and Dolly took things completely back to basics, releasing stripped, mostly acoustic albums. Dolly’s records were met with much critical acclaim, and she recorded some of her best work, including a little song for a little film.
In 2005, Dolly recorded the theme for the Transamerica, the story of a male-to-female transsexual who sets out on a trip with her long-lost son. ‘Travelin’ Thru’ is an unbelievably eloquent and beautiful embodiment of confusion, soul-searching and finding your personal meaning of life. Dolly has always excelled in uplifting, spiritual music, and ‘Travelin’ Thru’ draws from her gospel background and takes it to new levels, with wider mass appeal. “Like the poor wayfaring stranger”, she sings, recalling a stock character from country music, referencing her past and taking a positive outlook on the future. 59 years old when this song was released, she was not looking back for a second, still stumblin’ tumblin’ wanderin’ through life like the rest of us.
“Goodbye little children, good night you handsome men
Farewell to all you ladies, and to all who knew me when
And I hope I’ll see you down the road, you meant more than I knew”
‘Travelin’ Thru’ is for anyone who’s ever wondered what their purpose in life is, anyone who’s ever wanted to pack up and go on a road trip to find themselves, whether they’re searching for a lost child or searching for a dream, or whether they’ve gone off to look for America. There is religious overtones but they represent something more than Christianity, they represent the ultimate quest for meaning, for understanding. It was robbed at the Academy Awards, but more significantly, ‘Travelin’ Thru’ won the hearts of those fortunate enough to be in the know. It may not be her most-famous or highest-selling song, but it is her best.
Live at the Academy Awards: