Inspired by the classic children's story The Little Engine That Could - which follows a small engine's efforts to pull a train over a mountain, spurred on by the mantra "I think I can" - Dolly Parton wrote this uplifting tune to inspire kids to pursue their dreams with the same sense of optimism. Dolly says we all have a little engine inside of us that tells us we can do anything as long as we don't give up.
"I think it's so important to instill in children to have faith and to know there are great things out there," she wrote in her 2020 book, Songteller. "Greatness is out there, greatness you can tap into. But it has to start from in your heart."
This is the title track from Parton's 2017 children's album, which was based on many of the stories from her Imagination Library, a literacy program she founded to distribute free books to pre-K children. The first book that's sent out through the monthly service is The Little Engine That Could.
Parton received the same kind of encouragement from her uncle Bill Owens, a country musician who recognized young Dolly's talent for singing and songwriting. He bought her her first guitar and pushed her to keep practicing through the pain of her sore fingers until she adjusted to the instrument. "But I loved that little baby Martin Guitar," she recalled. "I remember loving that thing like it was a piece of my body, a piece of my soul. I just made friends with it."
In addition to helping Dolly launch her career, Owens penned several tunes for artists like Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, and Kris Kristofferson. He and Dolly also wrote songs together, including "Put It Off Until Tomorrow," which was the BMI Song Of The Year in 1966.
I Believe In You's predecessor was the grown-up album Pure & Simple (2016), which was Parton's first #1 Country album in 25 years.