David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 206: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris & Linda Ronstadt (After The Gold Rush)

December 5, 2022

When you are as big of a music nerd as I am, you spend much of your life trying to figure out how to objectively classify and rate songs so that you can definitively assert "this song is the greatest of all times." I have tried lyrical analysis, popularity weighting, arrangement differentiation, and so forth, never to come up with any etched-in-stone basis for why any song might be considered among the best, let alone why it may the best one.

Perhaps I should go farther back into inputs for a song to make that decision. If I did so, I might assert that "After The Gold Rush" by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, off of 1998's TRIO II, is the one. I probably shouldn't even have to do the math that will come in this blog, instead falling back on the recognition that three of the finest voices in popular music combine to sing a song from one of the greatest songwriters of the rock era.  Nevertheless, that may not be enough. So, instead, I offer the following calculus: there are 36 Grammy wins, 145 Grammy nominations, and 199 album releases all behind this song. To break it down:

Songwriter Neil Young:

58 solo, with Buffalo Springfield or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young non-best-of albums;

26 Grammy nominations (none before 1991, believe it or not);

3 Grammy wins.

Performer Dolly Parton:

80 solo, with Porter Waggoner, or collaborative1 non-best-of albums;

50 Grammy nominations;

11 Grammy wins.

Performer Emmylou Harris:

31 solo or collaborative non-best-of albums;

44 Grammy nominations;

12 Grammy wins.

Performer Linda Ronstadt:

30 solo, or with Stone Ponies, or collaborative non-best of albums;

25 Grammy nominations;

10 Grammy wins.

Add them all up and you get that 36, 145, and 199 total.2

Just for comparison, let's see how this stacks against the greatest Supergroup of all time, The Traveling Wilburys.

Tom Petty:

25 solo, Heartbreakers, or other collaborative non-best-of albums;3

18 Grammy nominations;

3 Grammy wins.

George Harrison:

37 solo or Beatles non-best-of albums;4

39 Grammy nominations;

12 Grammy wins.

Roy Orbison:

32 solo or collaborative non-best-of-albums;

9 Grammy nominations (I know, further evidence the Grammys are ridiculous);

5 Grammy wins.

Jeff Lynne:5

28 solo, ELO, or Move non-best-of-albums;

5 Grammy nominations;

1 Grammy win.

Bob Dylan:

52 solo non-best-of albums;

38 Grammy nominations;

10 Grammy wins.

That's 109 Grammy nominations to the 145 for Parton, Harris, Ronstadt & Young (PHR&Y, I like it!); 31 Grammy wins to 36 for PHR&Y; and 174 album releases compared to the 199 for PHR&Y.6

There you go.  I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any song showing more of a gold rush leading up to its creation than the Parton, Harris and Ronstadt version of "After The Gold Rush." Beyond this star power, we could add to all of this, the song itself, which is timeless. Literally.

3 verses representing the past, the present, and the future. It can appeal to knights in shining armor, modern man (or woman) in a burned out basement, or the arriving extraterrestrials. Even its one reference to a specific time in the Young original, "Look at mother nature on the run in the 1970s" was easily changed by Parton, Harris and Ronstadt to "Look at mother nature on the run in the 20th century." In live versions, more recently, Young has easily changed that to the 21st Century. The song truly could live on forever!

I conclude my justification of this version of "After The Gold Rush" as the greatest song ever. Incontrovertible truth!

Unless I hear Cheap Trick's "Surrender." Then maybe it is the greatest song ever and I just have to figure out a mathematical way to prove it. Sometimes you just wanna scream "Mommy's all right/Daddy's all right/they just seem a little weird" at the top of your lungs. Hard to put a number to that need.

1Please note that for the sake of accuracy, all references to Trio, Trio II, including Grammy nominations and wins, show up just in Dolly Parton's total so that I don't over count.

2Please additionally note that I am not taking into account the presence of conductor and arranger, David Campbell, on "After The Gold Rush," as frankly I am not sure I can count that high.

3I may or may not have only counted the Wilburys' Volume 1 release just with Petty. Frankly by this point, I am mostly regretting trying to objectively do this. We'll bury the uncertainty in some plus/minus calculation.

4Please additionally note that I counted only U.S. versions of Beatles albums. If I missed one or two because of the weird release differences for U.S. versus England, get over it.  Who knows who played what on some of those later Beatles' albums anyway? 

5Please additionally note that I could have, and probably should have, included albums Jeff Lynne has produced, but I didn't. Good Lord, this is a stupid blog generating no revenue, stop your nit-picking!

6Further note that I recognize 3 of the 5 Wilburys have sadly passed, not allowing them to accumulate more albums, nominations or wins. However, they had a 5-4 advantage for the longest time to PHR&Y so I am not going to apologize.

Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, & Linda Ronstadt. TRIO II. Asylum, 1999. Link here.

Day 205: Barry Manilow "I Write The Songs"

Day 207: The Tubes "She's A Beauty"

See complete list here.