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Watch Stephen Colbert weep as Dolly Parton sings 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow'

"I better hush before you cry yourself to death and can't finish the show," Parton said.
/ Source: TODAY

Dolly Parton's beautiful voice can move people to tears, even in the middle of an interview.

The 74-year-old country music legend had late-night host Stephen Colbert dabbing his eyes with a tissue on Tuesday night as she sang part of the old bluegrass song "Bury Me Beneath the Willow" on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert."

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"Are you crying?" Parton asked Colbert before singing the chorus again. "So I better hush before you cry yourself to death and can't finish the show!"

"Like a lot of Americans I'm under a lot of stress right now, Dolly!" Colbert said. "You got under my tripwire right there, I'll tell you right there. That was pretty beautiful."

Parton's rendition of the song came after she described how her mother, Avie Lee Owens Parton, passed down traditional songs to her as a child.

"Mama used to sing all those songs brought over from the old world," she said. "Mama was a good singer too, and she would just sing a capella all the time. So many of those songs were sad, and as I say, some of them just ‘plum pitiful.’

"But there was a song she used to sing called 'Bury Me Beneath the Willow.' It was about a girl that was going to get married, and her boyfriend left her at the altar or whatever, so she died, of course — she killed herself, I suppose.”

Parton then started singing the chorus of the song, and it was too much for Colbert, who needed a second to compose himself.

"We used to cry when Mama would sing," Parton said. "Mama would cry, we'd cry. Those old songs were just amazing, though."

"Isn't it funny that sometimes there's nothing happier than a cry?" Colbert said.

Only Parton could turn a discussion about her new book, "Songteller," and her first Christmas album in 30 years into a cathartic cry by just singing a few snippets of a sad song.

"I think that cleanses your soul," she said. "I think water's good to wash it out. That's what tears are for I think."