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Dolly Parton Adds Depth to New Version of ‘God Only Knows’

The band forKINGANDCOUNTRY has just released a new version of their song, “God Only Knows,” featuring music legend Dolly Parton. Band members and brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone say that, from their perspective, the original version had become “the people’s song” and felt like it needed another voice.

“It was like God spoke,” Parton told The Tennessean, describing the first time she heard “God Only Knows.” “I just felt like this song touched everything people struggle with. There’s just such a peace and love and sweetness about it, and I really think this song says what we need to be hearing right now.”

‘God Only Knows,’ Featuring Dolly

The original music video to “God Only Knows” portrays a girl going through her life, hiding her pain and loneliness. She eventually writes a suicide note and jumps off a bridge, but then the footage rewinds and a friend arrives moments beforehand, saving her.

The new music video tells the story of three people, played by each of the singers. Joel told The Tennessean that they wanted to have a “regular” version and a “distressed” version of each of them. Each person is dealing with a significant struggle: Luke’s character is seriously ill, Joel’s is an addict, and Parton’s is a prostitute. As each of the characters wrestle with the pain in their lives, the “regular” versions sing about how it feels to be unseen and contrast that with God’s love: 

God only knows what you’ve been through
God only knows what they say about you
God only knows how it’s killing you
But there’s a kind of love that God only knows

As the song concludes, the “regular” versions of the characters leave the rooms where they have been dealing with their respective demons and leave the broken versions of themselves behind. Then the brothers leave and Parton sings the final words of the song by herself:

God only knows where to find you
God only knows how to break through
God only knows the real you
There’s a kind of love that God only knows

The story of the song, said Luke, is that, “No matter what has taken place in your life, there’s a God that loves you.”

Speaking Love into Loneliness

The idea to ask Parton to collaborate on a new version of the song came when Joel and his wife, Moriah, saw the movie Dumplin’. Parton wrote the soundtrack for the film, and Joel wondered how she would respond if they reached out to her. As it turns out, Parton was looking to pursue more faith-based projects and said yes within a week.

According to Luke, Parton’s voice and life experience add depth to “God Only Knows.” “She started performing when she was 10,” he said, “and I think about all she has experienced as a woman in the entertainment world and the social changes. When she says, ‘God only knows,’ you feel it. You believe her. It was always written for this modern epidemic of loneliness and depression. Dolly is the vehicle to get into some of those hearts.”

The song certainly seems to be having a powerful impact on many. In the comments below the original music video, one person wrote, “I’m 12 and I have cancer and this song has helped me through a lot. Thank you.” Another said, “This song saved my life. Literally. Please pray for me.”  

The comments under the new music video also express gratitude for how the song has encouraged them. One YouTuber said, “Thank you for this video. I am a survivor of self-harm and your song reminded me that I am not alone in what I am going through. thank you so much. God Bless.” Another commented, “2 years of being clean from self-harm and sober. God is great and this song will never cease to bring me to tears.”

Parton told The Tennessean, “I feel really blessed for ‘God Only Knows’ to have landed in my lap like it did. It’s like it fell from the sky. When I heard it, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is so good.’ When we got to singing it, oh it just sounded so good. And just working with them was such a blessing.”