Elle King's Dolly Parton Opry Tribute Was a Wreck, but Dolly Is All About Forgiveness

Dolly Parton wanted to quell some of the online backlash against Elle King for her inebriated performance at the Grand Old Opry.


Feb. 13 2024, Published 10:42 a.m. ET

Elle King and Dolly Parton singing into mics.
Source: Getty Images

As she has aged, Dolly Parton has only become a more beloved figure to many Americans. It's fitting, then, that the Grand Ole Opry would want to pay tribute to one of country music's most enduring and beloved icons. Unfortunately, when that tribute happened, it was a bit of a disaster.

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Elle King was the person headlining, and following the news that Dolly forgave her for the tribute, many want to better understand what happened. Here's what we know about why Elle King needs to be forgiven by Dolly Parton in the first place.

Dolly Parton in white with a white guitar.
Source: Getty Images
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What did Elle King do to Dolly Parton?

Elle performed "Marry Me" on Jan. 19, 2024, at the Grand Ole Opry in honor of Dolly's 78th birthday. The performance didn't go very well, with Elle swearing throughout and at one point saying "I'm f--king hammered." Elle was clearly inebriated, and it led to some backlash following the performance. Video from Country Central showed that Elle didn't know the words to this song, and told audience members that they wouldn't get their money back despite her struggles.

As Dolly so often does, though, she encouraged everyone to chill out and try to move on with their lives following the backlash.

“Elle is really a great artist,” Dolly said. “She’s a great girl, and she’s been going through a lot of hard things lately.”

“She just had a little too much to drink, so let’s just forgive that and forget it and move on, ‘cause she felt worse than anyone ever could,” Dolly added.

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Elle King has spoken in the past about drinking at concerts.

In an interview in 2022, Elle said that she frequently had a drink before going on stage to perform in order to calm her nerves.

“It’s easier for me to say: ‘Yeah, I want to drink and party and (then) go on stage,'" she explained. "I get nervous before I go on stage, (so) I have couple of drinks (first). Drinking makes me less nervous about hitting the notes when I sing. If I don’t make them, it won’t sting as much."

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Fans weren't happy following Elle King's performance.

Dolly's attempt to get everyone to chill came after Elle faced a wave of backlash both from people who were in the room and from those who saw the video circulating online.

"I wish she would’ve been there because Elle King ruined the night with her horrible, drunk, and profane performance. Dolly Parton would’ve been mortified. For our first time at The Opry, it was a shame we all had to witness that," one person wrote following the performance.

Did Elle King apologize to Dolly Parton?

Dolly is hoping that everyone can forgive and forget, but in an online culture fueled by outrage, that may be easier said than done.

For her part, Elle appears to have apologized to Dolly privately, but doesn't appear to have said anything publicly. Now, fans will have to decide whether or not what's good enough for Dolly is good enough for them.

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