Please Parton Jessica's Performance

Songbird must retape her tribute performance of "9 to 5" after she breaks down during Kennedy Center Honors ceremony; CBS will air tweaked special on Dec. 26

By Joal Ryan Dec 05, 2006 7:55 PMTags

It took some overtime, but Jessica Simpson got "9 to 5" right. Mostly.

And when Simpson's performance of the Dolly Parton hit airs later this month on CBS' presentation of the 29th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, TV audiences should be none the wiser.

Or maybe they won't. E! Online senior editor Marc Malkin reports that even a Simpson redo, while better than her original rendering—which was bungled live before a Washington, D.C., audience of black-tie dignitaries, including President Bush—saw the singer sticking to cue cards and still managing to flub a line.

"It was a bad night for Jessica," a source told Malkin.

The night was Sunday. The pop songstress was at the Kennedy Center to pay tribute to Parton, one of the gala's five honorees, along with filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Motown great Smokey Robinson, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and conductor Zubin Mehta.

Simpson's job: singing "9 to 5," the 1980 Parton ditty from the movie of the same name.

Simpson's problem, according to her publicist: being "overcome with emotion."

The result: Simpson looked uncomfortable, blew a lyric and seemed on the verge of tears, as she blurted out at the end of the song, "Dolly, you make me so nervous, I can't even sing the words right."

And with that, the audience fell into a "Springtime for Hitler" silence, straight out of The Producers.

Simpson seemed to anticipate trouble, with Malkin reporting that her camp requested a TelePrompTer to guide her through the initial performance. (The request was nixed, and cue cards were written up instead.)

As Simpson waited backstage to perform, the Washington Post said, the singer was "weeping while the video tribute to Parton played and pacing anxiously during performances by Carrie Underwood, Kenny Rogers, Alison Krauss and Shania Twain."

Gauging Parton's reaction, Reuters said the veteran performer "looked surprised and thrilled" by Rogers and Underwood but "appeared to be significantly less impressed" by Simpson.

Rep Cindi Berger explained that Simpson, 26, idolized Parton, 60, and wanted her performance to be perfect. "She was upset with herself when it wasn't," Berger told USA Today.

The singer got a second shot at perfection when she taped her performance anew after the show ended, it has been confirmed. It is that tear-free but apparently cue card-aided take that will be shown when CBS airs the Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 26.

Simpson isn't the first Kennedy Center Honors performer to get a do-over. Last year, for instance, Beyoncé redid her contribution to a Tina Turner tribute after a faulty microphone marred her original performance.

She also isn't the first Simpson to flee a stage. Sister Ashlee Simpson slinked out of the Saturday Night Live spotlight when her prerecorded vocal tracks misfired during an infamous Memorex moment in 2004.

Ashlee made good with SNL about a year later with a return, snafu-free performance. Jessica apparently made good with Parton on Sunday night.

Simpson attended the postgala dinner, the Post said, and posed for pictures with Parton.

No more retakes were needed.