During her appearance on The Late Show on Tuesday night, the legendary country singer speaks about her mother singing old folk tunes, many of which were sad — or “plum pitiful,” according to Parton.
She then spontaneously breaks into an a capella version of Bury Me Beneath the Willow, a song about a woman left at the altar who decides to kill herself.
As she starts up the second verse, she notices Colbert dabbing at tears.
“Aw, you’re crying?” she asks, then continues to sing.
As she wraps it up, she says, “I’d better hush before you cry yourself to death and you can’t finish the show!”
“Like a lot of Americans, I’m under a lot of stress right now, Dolly!” Colbert says, wiping his eyes with a tissue and letting out a little giggle. “You got under my tripwire right there, that was pretty beautiful.”
“We used to cry when Mama would sing,” Parton says. “Mama would cry, we’d cry. Those old songs were just amazing.”
“Isn’t it funny that sometimes there’s nothing happier than a cry?” Colbert asks her.
“Yeah, I think that cleanses your soul,” Parton replies. “Water washes it out. That’s what it’s for, I think.”
(Watch video of the conversation, top.)
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