There was a very special pair of red shoes in Parton’s childhood.

By Meghan Overdeep
February 11, 2019

The rousing Dolly Parton tribute during last night’s 61st Annual Grammy Awards wasn’t just about the familiar hits like “Jolene” and “9 to 5.” With some help from Miley Cyrus and Kacey Musgraves, the Queen of Country also debuted a brand-new song.

“Red Shoes,” from the Dumplin' movie soundtrack, tells the inspiring tale of a little girl whose confidence comes from a pair of red shoes her aunt lets her wear.

The song goes on to take a semi-biographical turn.  As Parton, 73, explained to NPR late last year, there was a pair of red shoes in her own childhood.

“We were very poor kids. I grew up in a family of 12, just mountain people. And they used to send boxes of clothes up to our little one-room school,” Parton recalled. “And I remember as a little child— maybe 7, 8 years old—there was a pair of high-heel shoes—red shoes. And they looked small to me because they were, you know, high heels. And I thought those were my shoes. And I wanted them.”

And the grown-ups wouldn't let me have them— ‘oh, these are [for] grown-ups.’ And I was like, ‘no, these are my shoes.’ And so, I cried and cried because I didn't get my red shoes,” she continued. “So soon as I had an opportunity, of course, I always had red shoes.”

Decades later, her song “Red Shoes” reveals how something as simple as being able to put on a pair of red shoes has kept her spirit alive.