Here’s why Dolly Parton got snubbed in the Oscars original song category

Pop Music Critic

Among the game-changing 15 Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday morning for Netflix — whose “Roma” finally put the powerful streaming service in contention for best picture — was an expected nod in the original song category for a plaintive roots-music number by a woman with plenty of experience in that field.

Nope, not Dolly Parton.

Although the veteran country star’s “Girl in the Movies,” from “Dumplin’,” was widely tipped to be nominated, Oscar voters instead chose “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” from Netflix’s Coen brothers anthology, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

Sung in the movie by Tim Blake Nelson and Willie Watson, “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” — about a gunslinger “halfway to heaven under horsepower of my own” — was written by Gillian Welch and her creative partner, David Rawlings, who’ve performed and recorded together for years.


It may seem an unlikely choice for Oscar recognition, at least until you remember how wild folks in show business went for the Grammy-winning soundtrack to the Coens’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (which featured Welch and Rawlings in newly recorded renditions of old-timey folk and bluegrass songs).

But in snubbing Parton, who’d been putting in considerable work on the awards circuit, film academy members perhaps felt they’d already done enough for famous musicians by nominating Lady Gaga for “Shallow,” her duet with Bradley Cooper from “A Star Is Born,” and Kendrick Lamar for “All the Stars,” his duet with SZA from “Black Panther.”

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The category’s remaining two nominees — “I’ll Fight,” from “RBG,” and “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” from “Mary Poppins Returns” — edged out tunes written by the likes of Thom Yorke, Sade and Chaka Khan.

For Diane Warren, who wrote “I’ll Fight,” this nomination offers her 10th crack at an Academy Award, which she’s never won.

“Yay double digits!!!!!!” she wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

The songwriter’s first nod came in 1988, for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” from “Mannequin”; she was in the running last year with “Stand Up for Something,” from “Marshall.”


An award for “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” meanwhile, would put Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s ballad in company with “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” the Sherman brothers’ Oscar-winning ditty from the original “Mary Poppins” in 1964.

Beyond its song nomination, “Black Panther” is also represented in the original score category, where Ludwig Göransson’s music from the superhero movie earned this Swedish multi-tasker his first Oscar nod after a string of Grammy nominations for his work with Donald Glover in Childish Gambino.

Also debuting as a nominee: Terence Blanchard, Spike Lee’s longtime composer, who at last got the film academy’s attention with his guitar-heavy score for “BlacKkKlansman.”

The other composers up for original score are Nicholas Britell, for “If Beale Street Could Talk”; Shaiman, for “Mary Poppins Returns”; and last year’s winner, Alexandre Desplat, for “Isle of Dogs,” which follows his work on “The Shape of Water.”

FULL COVERAGE: 2019 Oscar nominations »

Twitter: @mikaelwood