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Songs of Remembrance: Dolly Parton's 'Dumb Blonde' was her grandmother's favorite

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

More than 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19. And we are recalling some through the music they loved. Kristin Ziegler of Denver, Colo., lost her grandmother in 2020.

KRISTIN ZIEGLER: My grandmother's name was Elfriede Liselotte Matza Froisland. She had this massive blonde hair. She would wear big costume jewelry, huge earrings, leopard print, bright red. You couldn't miss Elfriede in a room.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOLLY PARTON SONG, "DUMB BLONDE")

ZIEGLER: My grandmother's favorite song was Dumb Blonde by Dolly Parton.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DUMB BLONDE")

DOLLY PARTON: (Singing) Just because I'm blonde, don't think I'm dumb 'cause this dumb blonde ain't nobody's fool.

ZIEGLER: It's a song about resilience and humor. It's a song about feeling maybe a little bit scorned, perhaps by ex-husbands, perhaps by the world. And I think that she really found a lot of empowerment in that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DUMB BLONDE")

PARTON: (Singing) When you left, you thought I'd sit, and you thought I'd wait, and you thought I'd cry. You called me a dumb blonde.

ZIEGLER: She was from Augsburg, Germany. She was born six years before Hitler's rise to power. So she was present in Germany during Nazi Germany. I think that the horrors and the atrocities of World War II and of Nazi Germany left a terrible scar and imprint on her. But through that all, she had such a lust for life, such a zest for life. And that was her way of overcoming things.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DUMB BLONDE")

PARTON: (Singing) Ah, but somehow, I lived through it. And you know if there's one thing this blonde has learned, blondes have more fun.

ZIEGLER: Life gets hard. And there are absolutely huge things that serve as barriers to our enjoyment of life. But through it all, life is still really worth living, especially if you make that fun for yourself. And she did a great job of doing that for 93 years. And I hope to do the same.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DUMB BLONDE")

PARTON: (Singing) Just because I'm blonde, don't think I'm dumb 'cause this dumb blonde ain't nobody's fool.

INSKEEP: Kristin Ziegler remembering her grandmother, Elfriede Liselotte Matza Froisland. She died of COVID in 2020 at the age of 93.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DUMB BLONDE")

PARTON: (Singing) When you left, you thought I'd sit, and you thought I'd wait... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.