The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker is the fourth track on the first disc of Prince’s ninth album Sign O’ The Times.
Basic tracking took place on 13 March 1986 at Prince’s Galpin Blvd Home Studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota (six days before And How and Power Fantastic). It was the first track he recorded in his newly installed home studio.
The track was initially included as the fourth track on a late April 1986 configuration of Dream Factory, and as the album expanded, it was kept as the fourth track on the first disc on the 3 June 1986 and 18 July 1986 configurations. It was kept for inclusion as the fourth track on the first disc as the album developed into the triple-album Crystal Ball on the 30 November 1986 configuration, which was eventually pared down and became Sign O’ The Times.
The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker was planned as a single release also (likely as the album’s fifth commercial single), but this release was abandoned.
The whole song sounds somewhat dull and murky because of a technical problem. The console for the newly built home studio arrived from Los Angeles as a skeleton, with the wires hanging out and all the parts in boxes. Everything was hooked up, but no music was run through the console before recording commenced. While installing there was a loss of power in the house. The console had one power supply for the positive side and another for the negative side and, unbeknown to technician Susan Rogers, one of the power supplies didn’t come back up. Rogers noticed the music sounding flat, but didn’t want to ask Prince to stop recording. It was only after the day long recording session that Rogers discovered the cause of the problem. However Prince professed to like the recording.
Eric Leeds added a saxophone part to the song which was discarded. The song was also sent to Clare Fischer for his input and an elaborate horn arrangement was recorded, but Prince ended up not using it.
The song’s title seemingly refers to Dorothy Parker, an American writer and poet, born 1893, "best known for her wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles", but this was unintentional. Prince wrote the song following a dream he had. He must have heard the name somewhere, but allegedly when asked at the time, it appeared that he did not know about the writer Dorothy Parker.
The song also references Joni Mitchell’s Help Me ("Help me, I think I’m falling in love again") from her 1974 album Court And Spark (also released as a single in 1974).
In 2002, a live version was included as the seventh track on the live release One Nite Alone... The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over (titled only Dorothy Parker). The version with Eric Leeds overdub was released in September 2020 as the eighth track of Vault Tracks part 1, one of the discs with previously unreleased tracks included with the Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition.