Eagle When She Flies

Album: Eagle When She Flies (1991)
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Songfacts®:

  • Dolly Parton initially wrote this to be the theme song for the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias, which she starred in alongside Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Shirley MacLaine. "That's why I used the lines 'Gentle as the sweet magnolia, strong as steel, her faith and pride,'" she explained in her 2020 book, Songteller. Ultimately the filmmakers decided against using a theme song, and she used it as the title track to her 31st solo album.
  • The actresses all got along during the filming of the movie and Dolly was struck by how they each seemed to be secure in themselves and their roles. She played Truvy Jones, the owner of the beauty salon where all the women gathered to gossip and share their problems. The idea that they were gentle yet strong - like steel magnolias - conjured a different image for Dolly, who compares them to delicate sparrows when they're broken but majestic eagles when they fly.

    "I relate to eagles, somehow," Dolly wrote in Songteller. "Eagles are the strong ones, flying the hardest, the fastest, the highest. I didn't realize how much I write about eagles until somebody brought it to my attention. I must just relate to the idea of soaring. I like things with wings. If I ain't writing about angels, I'm writing about eagles or butterflies. I just love things that can move and get on out of here."
  • Dolly has such a soft spot for eagles that Dollywood features an eagle sanctuary where they take in injured birds, nurse them back to health, and sent them back into the wild.
  • Apparently a song about women who are strong enough to rise above challenges and make it on their own was "too feminist" for conservative radio stations to broadcast, which hindered its airplay. It reached #33 on the Country chart.
  • The music video is cut with footage of a variety of strong, independent women. Some of the famous faces include Cher, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and legendary aviator Amelia Earhart.
  • This was nominated for Best Country Song at the 1992 Grammy Awards but lost to The Judds' "Love Can Build a Bridge."
  • Around this time, Dolly noticed that her record label was dropping its veteran performers in favor of younger acts. The ones who were still on the roster had little control over what they did and who they did it with. Frustrated, she reached out to producer Steve Buckingham, whom she met when they were both working with Ricky Skaggs, to help resurrect her career. "She told me, 'I want to make a real country record, but all of the bigwigs say I can't do it,'" Buckingham told Style Weekly. "I thought, 'Jeez, if you can't trust Dolly Parton to make a country record.'"

    With Buckingham's help, Eagle When She Flies was a hit, selling more than a million copies in the US. Although he told Dolly he wasn't looking for credit, she still listed him as co-producer and took care of his production royalties. "She wrote me the check herself," Buckingham said.

    The pair worked together on a number of other albums, including Dolly's acclaimed bluegrass release in 1999 - The Grass Is Blue.

Comments: 3

  • The Write Girl from SpokaneAccording to Robert and Margaret Harling, the matriarch and patriarch who inspired the film Steel Magnolias and whose daughter Susan was played by Julia Roberts as Shelby in the film, Dolly Parton wrote this song while sitting on their sofa after supper one night while filming. She would often come over and visit them just as a friend and a neighbor as an actress and a superstar. I had the honor of interviewing the Harlingen in 2008 in the house where Steel Magnolias was filmed.
  • Samuel Mwenda from KenyaDolly i feel lyke moving on the skys while listening to ur songs bravo
  • Alex Thande Karugu from KalimoniThe song about these strong lady is perfect.
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