Back in 2015, music legend Dolly Parton recorded a song and sealed it away like a genie in a lamp. The public has never heard it. The mysterious track was placed in a time capsule for the relaunching of Dollywood, her theme park in Tennessee, and the pod isn’t supposed to be opened until 2045. But Parton seems to be having second thoughts about waiting so long.
“I have written a song that nobody’s going to hear until I’m 99 years old, and I might be there, I might not be,” Parton told Kelly Clarkson during an episode of her talk show that aired over the holidays.
Parton says she put a cassette player and a CD player into the time capsule, but it’s not clear what medium she used to record the song. Honestly, it could be on a wax cylinder and we’d still love to hear it. In fact, we’d probably love it even more.
“You have no idea how that has bothered me. I wanted to dig that up so bad,” Parton said after Clarkson asked about the seven-year-old capsule.
Parton says it’s “a really good song” but wishes she could take it back and share it with the world already.
“I have to honestly say, it was an odd feeling to be asked to write a song that nobody was going to hear,” Parton said, though she didn’t go into detail about who asked her to write it.
Time capsules are typically quite boring, with the most common items being flags, bibles, and old coins. But once in a while someone puts a really interesting object into a time capsule—like when Steve Jobs buried a computer mouse in 1983 that was finally rediscovered in 2014. Or that time the employees at an old telescope factory sealed a time capsule in 1894 that contained optical glass that was only discovered in 2015. The city of Tulsa, Oklahoma even buried an entire car in 1957, complete with 10 gallons of gasoline, because they assumed people of the year 2007 would be using futuristic fuel sources by then.
But then there are the time capsules that are missing the contents they were supposed to include—like the 1934 Nazi time capsule that was missing a movie when it was dug up in 2016. An American Legion time capsule from 1934 was also missing some brandy when it was dug up in 2015.
Even if a time capsule originally had something interesting in it, there’s basically no worse plan for preserving something for the future than sticking it in the ground. The Earth has a way of turning precious memories into soggy garbage, as happened with the John F. Kennedy Peace Capsule in Michigan after 50 years.
Will Parton actually dig up the time capsule anytime soon? It doesn’t sound like it. But it’s probably a very good idea that she included a tape player in the time capsule. When college students opened up a time capsule in 2015 with a tape from 2001, the hardest part of the excavation wasn’t the digging—it was finding a cassette player. Which makes us wonder how all this DRM’d music we’re all streaming these days could ever find its way to the future. HBO is axing shows and movies right and left. Who knows how much cultural history will be lost even just 20 years from now?