Dolly Parton Denies Copying Song for Hit ‘9 to 5’ Film

Times Staff Writers

Entertainer Dolly Parton denied in Los Angeles federal court Wednesday that she copied the work of a husband-wife songwriting team when she wrote her hit tune, “9 to 5.”

“I worked on the song at my hotel,” Parton, 39, testified. “On the set (of the 1981 movie, ‘9 to 5’) I’d rub my fingernails together like this. . . .”

She rubbed her long nails together, producing a rhythmic tapping sound, and then sang the first few words of the song, which was released at the same time as the movie:


“Working 9 to 5, what a way . . . (to make a living).”

Many spectators in the courtroom, as well as U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr., tried to keep from smiling as the platinum blonde singer performed.

“I never heard their song . . . until 18 months ago,” Parton later testified

The singer was sued in 1983 by Neil and Janice Goldberg of Los Angeles, who contended that Parton copied their 1976 song, “Money World.” The suit seeks $1 million and other unspecified damages.

The couple’s song, a recording of which was played Wednesday for the jury, includes the following chorus:

“Got the people workin’ 9 to 5; got them hustlin’ just to stay alive; got them workin’ nights and overtime; got them working only to survive.”

The couple testified earlier in the day that in 1978 they had sent two albums containing “Money World” to actress Jane Fonda and her husband, Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), in hopes of attracting attention.

The Goldbergs never heard back from Fonda or Hayden until after the release in 1981 of the film, “9 to 5,” starring Fonda, Parton and Lily Tomlin, Neil Goldberg, 42, told the jury.


When he heard that Fonda’s production company was involved in the film, the songwriter testified, he believed that Parton must have somehow derived her song from the albums mailed to Hayden and Fonda, who is also a defendant in the case.

However, Parton said she had no help from Fonda or anyone else in composing “9 to 5.”

She told reporters outside of court:

“I wrote it the same way I write all my songs. I wrote it by myself with a guitar . . . when I had a feel for what the lives of working women were about. I’m totally innocent.”

Fonda, who was a co-producer of the film, and Hayden are scheduled to testify today.