Dolly Rebecca Parton (born January 19, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter, actress, author, businesswoman, and humanitarian, known primarily for her work in country music.
Parton is the most honored female country performer of all time. Achieving 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards, she has had 25 songs reach No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts, a record for a female artist. She has 41 career top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and she has 110 career charted singles over the past 40 years. All-inclusive sales of singles, albums, hits collections, and digital downloads during her career have topped 100 million worldwide. She has garnered eight Grammy Awards, two Academy Award nominations, ten Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and is one of only seven female artists to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. Parton has received 46 Grammy nominations, tying her with Bruce Springsteen for the most Grammy nominations and placing her in tenth place overall.
In 1999, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has composed over 3,000 songs, notably “I Will Always Love You” (a two-time U.S. country chart-topper for Parton, as well as an international pop hit for Whitney Houston). She is also one of the few to have received at least one nomination from the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, and Emmy Awards.
As an actress, she starred in films such as 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, and Steel Magnolias.
Parton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, the fourth of twelve children of Robert Lee Parton (1921-2000), a farmer and construction worker, and his wife Avie Lee (née Owens; 1923-2003). Parton’s middle name comes from her maternal great-great grandmother, Rebecca (Dunn) Whitted (1861-1930). She has described her family as being “dirt poor”. Parton’s father paid with a bag of oatmeal the doctor who helped deliver her. She outlined her family’s poverty in her early songs: “Coat of Many Colors” and “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”. They lived in a rustic, one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, just north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, a predominantly Pentecostal area.
Music played an important role in her early life. She was brought up in the Church of God, the church her grandfather, Jake Robert Owens (1899-1992) pastored. Her earliest public performances were in the church, beginning at age six. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar. When she was eight years old, her uncle gave her her first real guitar.
Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the Eastern Tennessee area. By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At thirteen, she was recording (the single “Puppy Love”) on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her own instincts regarding her career.
The day after she graduated from high school in 1964, she moved to Nashville. Her initial success came as a songwriter, having signed with Combine Publishing shortly after her arrival; with her frequent songwriting partner, her uncle Bill Owens, she wrote several charting singles during this time, including two top ten hits: Bill Phillips’s 1966 record “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”, and Skeeter Davis’ 1967 hit “Fuel to the Flame”. Her songs were recorded by many other artists during this period, including Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr.. She signed with Monument Records in 1965, at 19, where she was initially pitched as a bubblegum pop singer. She released a string of singles, but the only one that charted, “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby”, did not crack the Billboard Hot 100. Although she expressed a desire to record country material, Monument resisted, thinking her unique voice with its strong vibrato was not suited to the genre.
It was only after her composition, “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”, as recorded by Bill Phillips (and with Parton, uncredited, on harmony), went to No. 6 on the country chart in 1966, that the label relented and allowed her to record country. Her first country single, “Dumb Blonde” (one of the few songs during this era that she recorded but did not write), reached No. 24 on the country chart in 1967, followed by “Something Fishy”, which went to No. 17. The two songs appeared on her first full-length album, Hello, I’m Dolly.
Relocating to Nashville at age 18 in 1964, Parton’s first commercial successes were as a songwriter. She rose to prominence in 1967 as a featured performer on singer Porter Wagoner’s weekly syndicated TV program; their first duet single, “The Last Thing on My Mind”, was a top-ten hit on the country singles chart and led to several successful albums before they ended their partnership in 1974. Moving towards mainstream pop music, her 1977 single “Here You Come Again” was a success on both the country and pop charts. A string of pop-country hits followed into the mid-1980s, the most successful being her 1980 hit “9 to 5” and her 1983 duet with Kenny Rogers “Islands in the Stream”, both of which topped the U.S. pop and country singles charts. A pair of albums recorded with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris were among her later successes. In the late 1990s, she returned to classic country/bluegrass with a series of acclaimed recordings. Non-musical ventures include Dollywood, a theme park in Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and her efforts on behalf of childhood literacy, particularly her Imagination Library, as well as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show.
1967-75: Country music success
In 1967, musician and country music entertainer Porter Wagoner invited Parton to join his organization, offering her a regular spot on his weekly syndicated television program The Porter Wagoner Show, as well as in his road show. As documented in her 1994 autobiography, initially, much of Wagoner’s audience was unhappy that Norma Jean, the performer whom Parton had replaced, had left the show, and was reluctant to accept Parton (sometimes chanting loudly for Norma.. Jean from the audience). With Wagoner’s assistance, however, Parton was eventually accepted. Wagoner convinced his label, RCA Victor, to sign her. RCA decided to protect their investment by releasing her first single as a duet with Wagoner. That song, a cover of Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind”, released in late 1967, reached the country top ten in January 1968, launching a six-year streak of virtually uninterrupted top ten singles for the pair.
Parton’s first solo single for RCA Victor, “Just Because I’m a Woman”, was released in the summer of 1968 and was a moderate chart hit, reaching No. 17. For the remainder of the decade, none of her solo efforts – even “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”, which later became a standard – were as successful as her duets with Wagoner. The duo was named Vocal Group of the Year in 1968 by the Country Music Association, but Parton’s solo records were continually ignored. Wagoner had a significant financial stake in her future: as of 1969, he was her co-producer and owned nearly half of Owe-Par, the publishing company Parton had founded with Bill Owens. By 1970, both Parton and Wagoner had grown frustrated by her lack of solo chart success. Wagoner persuaded Parton to record Jimmie Rodgers’s “Mule Skinner Blues”, a gimmick that worked. The record shot to No. 3, followed closely, in February 1971, by her first number-one single, “Joshua”. For the next two years, she had numerous solo hits – including her signature song “Coat of Many Colors” (#4, 1971) – in addition to her duets. Top twenty singles included “The Right Combination” and “Burning the Midnight Oil” (both duets with Porter Wagoner, 1971); “Lost Forever in Your Kiss” (with Wagoner) and “Touch Your Woman (1972); and “My Tennessee Mountain Home” and “Travelin’ Man” (1973).
Although her solo singles and the Wagoner duets were successful, her biggest hit of this period was “Jolene”. Released in late 1973, it topped the country chart in February 1974, and reached the lower regions of the Hot 100 (it eventually also charted in the UK, reaching No. 7 in 1976, representing Parton’s first UK success). Parton, who’d always envisioned a solo career, made the decision to leave Wagoner’s organization; the pair performed their last duet concert in April 1974, and she stopped appearing on his TV show in mid-1974, although they remained affiliated; he helped produce her records through 1975. The pair continued to release duet albums, their final release being 1975’s “Say Forever You’ll Be Mine”.
In 1974, her song, “I Will Always Love You”, written about her professional break from Wagoner, went to No. 1 on the country chart. Around the same time, Elvis Presley indicated that he wanted to cover the song. Parton was interested until Presley’s wily manager, Colonel Tom Parker, told her that it was standard procedure for the songwriter to sign over half of the publishing rights to any song recorded by Presley. Parton refused. That decision has been credited with helping to make her many millions of dollars in royalties from the song over the years.
Parton had three solo singles reach No. 1 on the country chart in 1974 (“Jolene”, “I Will Always Love You”, and “Love Is Like a Butterfly”), as well as the duet with Porter Wagoner, “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me”; she again topped the singles chart in 1975 with “The Bargain Store”.
1976-86: Branching out into pop music
From 1974 to 1980, she consistently charted in the country Top 10, with eight singles reaching No. 1. Parton had her own syndicated television variety show, Dolly! (1976-77). During this period, many performers, including Rose Maddox, Kitty Wells, Olivia Newton-John, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt covered her songs. Her siblings Randy and Stella both received recording contracts of their own.
During this period, Parton began to embark on a high-profile crossover campaign, attempting to aim her music in a more mainstream direction and increase her visibility outside of the confines of country music. In 1976, she began working closely with Sandy Gallin, who would serve as her personal manager for the next 25 years. With her 1976 album All I Can Do, which she co-produced with Porter Wagoner, Parton began taking more of an active role in production, and began specifically aiming her music in a more mainstream, pop direction. Her first entirely self-produced effort, New Harvest … First Gathering (1977), highlighted her pop sensibilities, both in terms of choice of songs – the album contained covers of the pop and R&B classics “My Girl” and “Higher and Higher” – and production. Though the album was well received and topped the U.S. country albums chart, neither it, nor its single “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” made much of an impact on the pop charts.
After New Harvest’s disappointing chart performance, Parton turned to high profile pop producer Gary Klein for her next album. The result, 1977’s Here You Come Again, became her first million-seller, topping the country album chart and reaching No. 20 on the pop chart; the Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil-penned title track topped the country singles chart, and became Parton’s first top-ten single on the pop chart (#3). A second single, the double A-sided “Two Doors Down”/”It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” topped the country chart and crossed over to the pop top twenty. For the remainder of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, many of her subsequent singles charted on both charts simultaneously. Her albums during this period were developed specifically for pop-crossover success.
In 1978, Parton won a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her Here You Come Again album. She continued to have hits with “Heartbreaker” (1978), “Baby I’m Burning” (1979), and “You’re the Only One” (1979), all of which charted in the pop Top 40 and topped the country chart. “Sweet Summer Lovin'” (1979) became the first Parton single in two years to not top the country chart (though it did reach the Top 10). During this period, her visibility continued to increase, with multiple television appearances. A highly publicized candid interview on a Barbara Walters Special in 1977 (timed to coincide with Here You Come Again’s release) was followed by appearances in 1978 on Cher’s ABC television special, and her own joint special with Carol Burnett on CBS, Carol and Dolly in Nashville.
Parton served as one of three co-hosts (along with Roy Clark and Glen Campbell) on the CBS special Fifty Years of Country Music. In 1979, Parton hosted the NBC special The Seventies: An Explosion of Country Music, performed live at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., and whose audience included President Jimmy Carter. Her commercial success grew in 1980, with three consecutive No. 1 hits: the Donna Summer-written “Starting Over Again”, “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You”, and “9 to 5”, which topped the country and pop charts in early 1981. She had another Top 10 single that year with “Making Plans”, a single released from a 1980 reunion album with Porter Wagoner.
“9 to 5”, the theme song to the 1980 feature film 9 to 5 she starred in along with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, not only reached No. 1 on the country chart, but also, in February 1981, reached No. 1 on the pop and the adult-contemporary charts, giving her a triple No. 1 hit. Parton became one of the few female country singers to have a No. 1 single on the country and pop charts simultaneously. It also received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Her singles continued to appear consistently in the country Top 10: between 1981 and 1985, she had 12 Top 10 hits; half of them hit No. 1. She continued to make inroads on the pop chart as well. A re-recorded version of “I Will Always Love You” from the feature film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) scraped the Top 50 that year and her duet with Kenny Rogers, “Islands in the Stream” (written by the Bee Gees and produced by Barry Gibb), spent two weeks at No. 1 in 1983.
Other chart hits during this period included her chart-topping cover of the 1969 First Edition hit, “But You Know I Love You” and “The House of the Rising Sun” (1981); “Single Women”, “Heartbreak Express”, and “Hard Candy Christmas” (1982); and “Potential New Boyfriend” (1983), which was accompanied by one of her first music videos and reached the U.S. dance chart. She continued to explore new business and entertainment ventures such as her Dollywood theme park that opened in 1986 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
In the mid-1980s, her record sales were still relatively strong, with “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “Downtown”, “Tennessee Homesick Blues” (1984); “Real Love” (another duet with Kenny Rogers), “Don’t Call It Love” (1985); and “Think About Love” (1986) all reaching the country Top 10. (“Tennessee Homesick Blues” and “Think About Love” reached No. 1; “Real Love” also reached No. 1 on the country chart and became a modest crossover hit). However, RCA Records did not renew her contract after it expired that year, and she signed with Columbia Records in 1987.
© Image credit
1987-94: Return to country roots
Along with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, she released Trio (1987) to critical acclaim. The album revitalized Parton’s music career, spending five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart, and also reached the top-ten on Billboard’s Top-200 Albums chart. It sold several million copies and producing four Top 10 country hits including Phil Spector’s “To Know Him Is to Love Him”, which went to No. 1. “Trio” won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. After a further attempt at pop success with “Rainbow” (1987), including the single “The River Unbroken”, Parton focused on recording country material. “White Limozeen” (1989) produced two No. 1 hits in “Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That” and “Yellow Roses”. Although it looked like Parton’s career had been revived, it was actually just a brief revival before contemporary country music came on in the early 1990s and moved most veteran artists off the chart.
A duet with Ricky Van Shelton, “Rockin’ Years” (1991), reached No. 1, though Parton’s greatest commercial fortune of the decade came when Whitney Houston recorded “I Will Always Love You” for the soundtrack of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992); both the single and the album were massively successful. Parton’s soundtrack album from the 1992 film, Straight Talk, however, was less successful. But her 1993 album Slow Dancing with the Moon won critical acclaim, and did well on the charts, reaching No. 4 on the country albums chart, and No. 16 on the Billboard 200 album chart. She recorded “The Day I Fall in Love” as a duet with James Ingram for the feature film Beethoven’s 2nd (1993). The songwriters (Sager, Ingram, and Clif Mangess) were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Parton and Ingram performed the song at the awards telecast. Similar to her earlier collaborative album with Harris and Ronstadt, Parton released “Honky Tonk Angels” in the fall of 1993 with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. It was certified as a gold album by the Recording Industry Association of America and helped revive both Wynette’s and Lynn’s careers. Also in 1994, Parton contributed the song “You Gotta Be My Baby” to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization. A live acoustic album, Heartsongs, featuring stripped down versions of some of her hits, as well as some traditional songs, was released in late 1994.
Parton’s recorded music during the mid-to late 1990s remained steady, though somewhat eclectic. Her 1995 re-recording of “I Will Always Love You” (performed as a duet with Vince Gill), from her album Something Special won the Country Music Association’s Vocal Event of the Year Award. The following year, Treasures, an album of covers of 1960s/70s hits was released, and featured a diverse collection of material, including songs by Mac Davis, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens, and Neil Young. Her recording of Stevens’ “Peace Train” was later remixed and released as a dance single, reaching Billboard’s dance singles chart. Her 1998 country-rock album Hungry Again was made up entirely of her own compositions. Although neither of the album’s two singles, “(Why Don’t More Women Sing) Honky Tonk Songs” and “Salt in my Tears”, charted, videos for both songs received significant airplay on CMT. A second and more contemporary collaboration with Harris and Ronstadt, Trio II, was released in early 1999. Its cover of Neil Young’s song “After the Gold Rush” won a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Parton was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
Parton recorded a series of bluegrass-inspired albums, beginning with The Grass Is Blue (1999), winning a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album, and Little Sparrow (2001), with its cover of Collective Soul’s “Shine” winning a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The third, Halos & Horns (2002) included a bluegrass version of the Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven”. In 2005 she released Those Were The Days consisting of her interpretations of hits from the folk-rock era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, including “Imagine”, “Where Do the Children Play?”, “Crimson and Clover”, and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
Parton earned her second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for “Travelin’ Thru”, which she wrote specifically for the feature film Transamerica (2005). Due to the song’s (and film’s) uncritical acceptance of a transgender woman, Parton received death threats. She returned to No. 1 on the country chart later in 2005 by lending her distinctive harmonies to the Brad Paisley ballad, “When I Get Where I’m Goin'”.
The music-competition reality-television show American Idol (since 2002) has weekly themes and the April 1-2, 2008, episodes’ theme was “Dolly Parton Songs” with the nine then-remaining contestants each singing a Parton composition. Parton participated as a “guest mentor” to the contestants and also performed “Jesus and Gravity” (from Backwoods Barbie and released as a single in March 2008) receiving a standing ovation from the studio audience.
In September 2007, Parton released her first single from her own record company, Dolly Records, titled, “Better Get to Livin'”, which eventually peaked at No. 48 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. It was followed by the studio album Backwoods Barbie, which was released on February 26, 2008, and reached No. 2 on the country chart. The album’s debut at No. 17 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart was the highest in her career. Backwoods Barbie produced four additional singles, including the title track, written as part of her score for 9 to 5: The Musical, an adaptation of her feature film Nine to Five. After the sudden death of Michael Jackson, whom Parton knew personally, she released a video in which she somberly told of her feelings on Jackson and his death.
On October 27, 2009, Parton released a four-CD box set, “Dolly”, which featured 99 songs and spanned most of her career. She released her second live DVD and album, Live From London in October 2009, which was filmed during her sold out 2008 concerts at London’s The O2 Arena. In 2010, she was said to have been working on a dance-oriented album, Dance with Dolly, but as of June 2015 the album had not been released.
With longtime friend Billy Ray Cyrus, Parton released their album Brother Clyde on August 10, 2010. Parton is featured on “The Right Time”, which she co-wrote with Cyrus and Morris Joseph Tancredi. On January 6, 2011, Parton announced that her new album would be titled Better Day. In February 2011, she announced that she would embark on the Better Day World Tour on July 17, 2011, with shows in northern Europe and the U.S. The album’s lead-off single, “Together You and I”, was released on May 23, 2011, and Better Day was released on June 28, 2011. In 2011, Parton voiced the character Dolly Gnome in the animated film Gnomeo & Juliet.
On February 11, 2012, after the sudden death of Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton stated, “Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston. I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song, and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, “Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed.” In 2013, Parton joined Lulu Roman for a recording of “I Will Always Love You” for Roman’s album, “At Last”.
In 2013, Parton and Kenny Rogers reunited for the title song of his album You Can’t Make Old Friends. For their performance, they were nominated at the 2014 Grammy Awards for Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
In 2014, Parton embarked on the Blue Smoke World Tour in support of her forty-second studio album, Blue Smoke. The album was first released in Australia & New Zealand on January 31 to coincide with tour dates there in February, and reached the top 10 in both countries. It was released in the US on May 13, and debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it her first top 10 album and her highest-charting solo album ever; it also reached the No. 2 position on the US country chart. The album was released in Europe on June 9, and reached No. 2 on the UK album chart. On June 29, 2014, Parton performed for the first time at the UK Glastonbury Festival performing songs such as “Jolene”, “9 to 5″and “Coat of Many Colors” to a crowd of over 180,000.
© Image credit
In concert and on tour
Parton toured extensively from the late 1960s until the early 1990s. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Parton toured as a member of Porter Wagoner’s road show, as well as with other country musicians, including George Jones and Linda Ronstadt. Upon leaving Wagoner’s organization in 1974, Parton formed her own “Travelin’ Family Band”, made up largely of siblings, cousins, and other family members, and touring with other acts, including Willie Nelson and Mac Davis.
In 1976, she disbanded the Travelin’ Family Band, to form a new band, Gypsy Fever, composed of seasoned musicians who had more of a rock sensibility, to support her impending crossover. Parton toured as a headline act with Gypsy Fever from 1977 to 1979, to promote her albums, New Harvest – First Gathering, Here You Come Again, Heartbreaker, and Great Balls of Fire. In the 1980s, movie roles and other ventures caused Parton to tour less than she had done during the previous decade. In 1982 and early 1983, she toured in support of her Heartbreak Express album, but health problems resulted in the cancellation of a several of that tour’s dates. From 1984 to 1985, she toured alongside Kenny Rogers for the Real Love Tour. She continued touring in 1986 with the Think About Love Tour, and 1989 for the White Limozeen Tour. Parton’s only tour in the 1990s was between 1991-92 in support of her Eagle When She Flies album.
© Image credit
Backwoods Barbie Tour
In 2008, Parton went on the Backwoods Barbie Tour. It was set to begin in the U.S. (February-April 2008) to coincide with the release of Backwoods Barbie (2008), her first mainstream-country album in 17 years. However, due to health problems she postponed all U.S. dates. The tour started March 28, 2008, with 13 U.S. dates, followed by 17 European shows.
She returned to the U.S. with a concert at Humphrey’s By The Bay in San Diego on August 1, 2008. She performed her Backwoods Barbie Tour on August 3, 2008, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles to a sold-out crowd and standing ovations. From August 1 to November 1, she scheduled 16 dates on both the east and west coasts of the U.S.
Her concerts at London’s O2 Arena were the subject of a PBS Special
© Image credit
Parton is a prolific songwriter, having begun by writing country-music songs with strong elements of folk music, based upon her upbringing in humble mountain surroundings, and reflecting her family’s Christian background. Her songs “Coat of Many Colors”, “I Will Always Love You”, and “Jolene”, among others, have become classics in the field. On November 4, 2003, Parton was honored as a BMI Icon at the 2003 BMI Country Awards.
Parton has earned over 35 BMI Pop and Country Awards throughout her songwriting career. In 2001, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In a 2009 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Parton indicated she had written “at least 3,000” songs, having written seriously since the age of seven. Parton went on to say that she writes something every day, be it a song or an idea.
© Image credit
Compositions in films and television and covers
Parton’s songwriting has been featured prominently in several films. In addition to the title song for Nine to Five (1980), she also recorded a second version of “I Will Always Love You” for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). The second version was a No. 1 country hit and also managed to reach the pop charts, going to No. 53.
“I Will Always Love You” has been covered by many country artists, including Ronstadt on Prisoner In Disguise (1975); Kenny Rogers on Vote for Love (1996); and LeAnn Rimes on Unchained Melody: The Early Years (1997). Whitney Houston performed it on The Bodyguard (1992) film soundtrack and her version became the best-selling hit both written and performed by a female vocalist, with worldwide sales of over twelve million copies. In addition, the song has been translated into Italian and performed by the Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins, a fact referred to by Parton herself at the Backwoods Barbie tour concert in Birmingham (UK).
As a songwriter, Parton has twice been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, for “9 to 5” (1980) and “Travelin’ Thru” (2005) from the transgender themed film Transamerica. “Travelin’ Thru” won as Best Original Song award at the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards (2005). The song was also nominated for both the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song (2005) and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award (also known as the Critics’ Choice Awards) for Best Song (2005). A cover version of “Love Is Like A Butterfly”, recorded by singer Clare Torry, was used as the theme music for the British TV show Butterflies.
9 to 5: The Musical
Parton wrote the score (and Patricia Resnick wrote the book) for 9 to 5: The Musical, a musical-theatre adaptation of Parton’s feature film Nine to Five (1980). The musical ran at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles in late 2008. It opened on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre in New York City, on April 30, 2009, to mixed reviews.
The title track of her 2008 Backwoods Barbie album was written for the musical’s character Doralee. Although her score (as well as the musical debut of actress Allison Janney) was praised, the show struggled and closed on September 6, 2009 after 24 previews and 148 performances. Parton received nominations for Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics, as well as a nomination for Tony Award for Best Original Score.
Developing the musical was not a quick process. According to a broadcast of the public-radio program Studio 360 (October 29, 2005), in October 2005 Parton was in the midst of composing the songs for a Broadway musical theatre adaptation of the film. In late June 2007, 9 to 5: the Musical was read for industry presentations. The readings starred Megan Hilty, Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block, Bebe Neuwirth, and Marc Kudisch. Ambassador Theatre Group announced a 2012 UK tour for Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5: The Musical, commencing at Manchester Opera House, on October 12, 2012.
During the mid-1970s, Parton wanted to expand her audience base. Although her first attempt, the television variety show Dolly! (1976-77), had high ratings, it lasted only one season, with Parton requesting to be released from her contract because of the stress it was causing her vocal cords. (She later tried a second television variety show, also titled Dolly (1987-88), it lasted only one season).
In her first feature film, Parton portrayed a secretary in a leading role with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the comedy film 9 to 5 (1980). She received nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress.
Parton wrote and recorded the film’s title song. It received nominations for an Academy Award for Best Song and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Released as a single, the song won both the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and the Grammy Award for Best Country Song. It also reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart and it was No. 78 on the “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs” list released by the American Film Institute in 2004. 9 to 5 became a major box office success, grossing over $3.9 million its opening weekend, and over $103 million worldwide. Parton was named Top Female Box Office Star by the Motion Picture Herald in both 1981 and 1982 due to the film’s success.
In late 1981, Parton began filming her second film, the musical film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). The film earned her a second nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film was greeted with positive critical reviews and became a commercial success, earning over $69 million worldwide. After a two-year hiatus from films, Parton was teamed with Sylvester Stallone for Rhinestone (1984). A comedy film about a county music star’s efforts to mould an unknown into a music sensation, the film was a critical and financial failure, making just over $21 million on a $28 million budget.
In 1989, she returned to film acting in Steel Magnolias (1989), based on the play of the same name by Robert Harling. The film was popular with critics and audiences, grossing over $95 million inside the U.S. Parton starred along with James Woods in Straight Talk (1992), which received mixed reviews, and grossed a mild $21 million at the box office. She launched a television series, The Dolly Show, but it was not a success. Parton made a cameo appearance as herself in The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), an adaptation of the long-running TV sitcom of the same name (1962-71). She appeared as an overprotective mother in the comedy Frank McKlusky, C.I. (2002). She made a cameo appearance in the comedy film Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, starring Sandra Bullock. She was featured in The Book Lady (2008), a documentary film about her campaign for children’s literacy.
Parton had expected to reprise her television role as Hannah’s godmother in the musical comedy film Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009), but the character was omitted from the final screenplay. She had a voice role in the comedy family film Gnomeo & Juliet (2011), a computer-animated film with gnomes about William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
She co-starred with Queen Latifah in the musical film Joyful Noise (2012), which finished filming in April 2011. She played a choir director’s widow who joins forces with Latifah’s character, a mother of two teens, to save a small Georgia town’s gospel choir. The film was released in theaters on January 13, 2012.
In addition to her performing appearances on The Porter Wagoner Show in the 1960s and into the 1970s, her two self-titled television variety shows in the 1970s and 1980s, and on American Idol in 2008 and other guest appearances, Parton has had television roles. In 1979, she received an Emmy award nomination as “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Variety Program” for her guest appearance in a Cher special.
During the 1980s, she starred in two popular television concert specials: 1983’s Dolly in London, filmed live in London’s Dominion Theatre, and Dolly & Kenny: Real Love, a 1985 concert special with Kenny Rogers, filmed during their joint concert tour. (Parton and Rogers also filmed a popular 1984 holiday special for CBS, and the two teamed up with Willie Nelson in 1989 for another concert special Something Inside So Strong.) She starred in the television movies A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986); Wild Texas Wind (1991); Unlikely Angel (1996), portraying an angel sent back to earth following a deadly car crash; and Blue Valley Songbird (1999), where her character lives through her music.
Parton has done voice work for animation for television series, playing herself in the Alvin and the Chipmunks (episode “Urban Chipmunk”, 1983) and the character Katrina Eloise “Murph” Murphy (Ms. Frizzle’s first cousin) in The Magic School Bus (episode “The Family Holiday Special”, 1994). She also has guest-starred in several of sitcoms, including a 1990 episode of Designing Women (episode “The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century”) as herself, the guardian movie star of Charlene’s baby. She made a guest appearance on Reba (episode “Reba’s Rules of Real Estate”) portraying a real-estate agency owner and on The Simpsons (episode “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday”, 1999). She appeared as herself in 2000 on the Halloween episode of Bette Midler’s short-lived sitcom Bette, and on episode 14 of Babes (which was produced by Sandollar Productions, Parton and Sandy Gallin’s joint production company).
She made cameo appearances on the Disney Channel as “Aunt Dolly” visiting Hannah and her family in the fellow Tennessean Miley Cyrus’ series Hannah Montana (episodes “Good Golly, Miss Dolly”, 2006, “I Will Always Loathe You”, 2007, and “Kiss It All Goodbye”, 2010). She was nominated for an Outstanding Guest Actress in Comedy Series.
Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, a made-for-TV film based on Parton’s song of the same name, and featuring narration by Parton, aired on NBC in December 2015.
The Dollywood Company
Parton invested much of her earnings into business ventures in her native East Tennessee, notably Pigeon Forge. She is a co-owner of The Dollywood Company, which operates the theme park Dollywood (a former Silver Dollar City), a dinner theatre, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and the waterpark Dollywood’s Splash Country, all in Pigeon Forge. Dollywood is ranked as the 24th-most-popular theme park in the United States, with some three million visitors per year.
The Dixie Stampede business has venues in Branson, Missouri, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A former location in Orlando, Florida closed in January 2008 after the land and building were sold to a developer. Starting in June 2011, the Myrtle Beach location became Pirates Voyage Fun, Feast & Adventure; Parton appeared for the opening, and the South Carolina General Assembly declared June 3, 2011, Dolly Parton Day.
On January 19, 2012, Parton’s 66th birthday, Gaylord Opryland and Dollywood announced plans to open a $50 million water and snow park, a fun and family-friendly travel destination that is open each month of the year in Nashville. However, on September 29, 2012, Parton officially withdrew her support of the Nashville park due to the restructuring of Gaylord Entertainment Company due to their merger with Marriott International.
On June 12, 2015, it was announced that The Dollywood Company had purchased the Lumberjack Feud Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The show, which opened originally in June 2011, was previously owned and operated by Rob Scheer until the close of the 2015 season. The new renovated show by The Dollywood Company opens in 2016.
Film and television production company
Parton was a co-owner of Sandollar Productions, with Sandy Gallin, her former manager. A film-and-television-production company, it produced the Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989), which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Feature); the television series Babes (1990-91) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003); and the feature films Father of the Bride (1991), Father of the Bride: Part II (1995) Straight Talk (1992) (in which Parton starred), and Sabrina (1995), among other shows. In a 2009 interview singer Connie Francis revealed that Dolly had been contacting her for years in an attempt to film the singer’s life story. Francis turned down Parton’s offers as she was already in negotiations with singer Gloria Estefan to produce the film, a collaboration now ended. After the retirement of her partner, Sandy Gallin, Parton briefly operated Dolly Parton’s Southern Light Productions and in 2015, announced her new production company would be called Dixie Pixie Productions and will produce the movies-of-week in development with NBC Television.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Her literacy program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a part of the Dollywood Foundation, mails one book per month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. Currently over 1600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to almost 850,000 children each and every month across the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia. The program distributes more than 10 million free books to children annually.
In 2006, Parton published a cookbook, Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s: Love, Laughter and Lots of Good Food.
The Dollywood Foundation, funded from Parton’s net profits, has been noted for bringing jobs and tax revenues to a previously depressed region. Parton has also worked to raise money on behalf of several other causes, including the American Red Cross and HIV/AIDS-related charities.
In December 2006, Parton pledged $500,000 toward a proposed $90-million hospital and cancer center to be constructed in Sevierville in the name of Dr. Robert F. Thomas, the physician who delivered her. She announced a benefit concert to raise additional funds for the project. The concert played to about 8,000 people. That same year, she and Emmylou Harris allowed their music to be used in a PETA ad campaign that encouraged pet owners to keep their dogs indoors rather than chained outside. In May 2009, Parton gave the commencement address at the University of Tennessee. Her speech was about her life lessons, and she encouraged the graduates to never stop dreaming.
© Image credit
On May 30, 1966, Parton and Carl Thomas Dean (born (1942-07-20)July 20, 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee) were married in Ringgold, Georgia. Although Parton does not use Dean’s surname professionally, she has stated that her passport says “Dolly Parton Dean” and that she sometimes uses Dean when signing contracts.
Dean, who runs an asphalt road-paving business in Nashville, has always shunned publicity and rarely accompanies his wife to any events. According to Parton, he has only ever seen her perform once. However, she has also commented in interviews that, although it appears they spend little time together, it is simply that nobody sees him publicly. She has commented on Dean’s romantic side, saying that he does spontaneous things to surprise her and sometimes even writes poems for her.
Parton and Dean helped raise several of Parton’s younger siblings in Nashville, leading her nieces and nephews to refer to her as “Aunt Granny”, a moniker that later lent its name to one of Parton’s Dollywood restaurants. The couple have no children of their own but Parton is the godmother of performer Miley Cyrus.
In 2011, the couple celebrated their 45th anniversary. Later, Parton said, “We’re really proud of our marriage. It’s the first for both of us. And the last.”
© Image credit
Awards and honors
Parton is one of the most-honored female country performers of all time. The Record Industry Association of America has certified 25 of her single or album releases as either Gold Record, Platinum Record or Multi-Platinum Record. She has had 26 songs reach No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, a record for a female artist. She has 42 career top-10 country albums, a record for any artist, and 110 career-charted singles over the past 40 years. All inclusive sales of singles, albums, collaboration records, compilation usage, and paid digital downloads during Parton’s career have reportedly topped 100 million records around the world.
Parton has earned eight Grammy Awards (including her 2011 Lifetime Achievement Grammy) and a total of 46 Grammy Award nominations, the most nominations of any female artist in the history of the prestigious awards, a record tied by Beyoncé.
At the American Music Awards, she has won three awards out of 18 nominations. At the Country Music Association, she has won 10 awards out of 42 nominations. At the Academy of Country Music, she has won seven awards and 39 nominations. She is one of only six female artists (including Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Shania Twain, Loretta Lynn, and Taylor Swift), to win the Country Music Association’s highest honor, Entertainer of the Year (1978). She has also been nominated for two Academy Awards and a Tony Award. She was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her music in 1984, located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California; a star on the Nashville Star Walk for Grammy winners; and a bronze sculpture on the courthouse lawn in Sevierville. She has called that statue of herself in her hometown “the greatest honor,” because it came from the people who knew her. Parton was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1969, and in 1986 was named one of Ms. Magazine’s Women of the Year. In 1986, she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 1999, Parton received country music’s highest honor, an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She received an honorary doctorate degree from Carson-Newman College (Jefferson City, Tennessee) in 1990. This was followed by induction into the National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2002, she ranked No. 4 in CMT’s 40 Greatest Women of Country Music.
Parton was honored in 2003 with a tribute album called Just Because I’m a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton. The artists who recorded versions of Parton’s songs included Melissa Etheridge (“I Will Always Love You”), Alison Krauss (“9 to 5”), Shania Twain (“Coat of Many Colors”), Me’Shell NdegéOcello (“Two Doors Down”), Norah Jones (“The Grass is Blue”), and Sinéad O’Connor (“Dagger Through the Heart”); Parton herself contributed a rerecording of the title song, originally the title song for her first RCA album in 1968. Parton was awarded the Living Legend Medal by the U.S. Library of Congress on April 14, 2004, for her contributions to the cultural heritage of the United States.
In 2005, she was honored with the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given by the U.S. government for excellence in the arts and is presented by the U.S. President. On December 3, 2006, Parton received the Kennedy Center Honors from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her lifetime of contributions to the arts. During the show, some of country music’s biggest names came to show their admiration. Carrie Underwood performed “Islands in the Stream” with Rogers, Parton’s original duet partner. Krauss performed “Jolene” and duetted “Coat of Many Colors” with Twain. McEntire and Reese Witherspoon also came to pay tribute. On November 16, 2010, Parton accepted the Liseberg Applause Award, the theme park industry’s most prestigious honor, on behalf of Dollywood theme park during a ceremony held at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2010 in Orlando, Florida.
© Image credit
Hall of Fame honors
During her career, Parton has gained induction into numerous Halls of Fame. Those honors include:
- Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1986)
- Small Town of America Hall of Fame (1988)
- East Tennessee Hall of Fame (1988)
- Country Music Hall of Fame (1999)
- Songwriters Hall of Fame (2001)
- Junior Achievement of East Tennessee Business Hall of Fame (2003)
- The Americana Highway Hall of Fame (2006)
- Grammy Hall of Fame – “I Will Always Love You – 1974 Recording” (2007)
- Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame – Songwriter Category (2008)
- Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2009)
- Music City Walk of Fame (2009)
- Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2010)
- Grammy Hall of Fame – “Jolene – 1974 Recording” (2014)
- The National Hall of Fame for Mountain Artisans (2014)
© Image credit
In 2003, her efforts to preserve the bald eagle through the American Eagle Foundation’s sanctuary at Dollywood earned her the Partnership Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Parton received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution at a ceremony in Nashville on November 8, 2007.
For her work in literacy, Parton has received various awards including:
- Association of American Publishers – AAP Honors Award (2000)
- Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (2001) (the first time the seal had been awarded to a person)
- American Association of School Administrators – Galaxy Award (2002)
- National State Teachers of the Year – Chasing Rainbows Award (2002)
- Parents as Teachers National Center – Child and Family Advocacy Award (2003)
On May 8, 2009, Parton gave the commencement speech at the commencement ceremony for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Arts and Sciences. During the ceremony she received an honorary DHL from the university. It was only the second honorary degree given by the university, and in presenting the degree, the university’s Chancellor, Jimmy G. Cheek, said, “Because of her career not just as a musician and entertainer, but for her role as a cultural ambassador, philanthropist and lifelong advocate for education, it is fitting that she be honored with an honorary degree from the flagship educational institution of her home state.”
Parton has turned down several offers to pose for Playboy magazine, although she did appear on the cover of Playboy’s October 1978 issue wearing a Playboy bunny outfit, complete with ears (the October 1978 Playboy issue featured Lawrence Grobel’s extensive and candid interview with Parton, representing one of her earliest high profile interviews with the mainstream press). The association of breasts with Parton’s public image is illustrated in the naming of Dolly the sheep after her, since the sheep was cloned from a cell taken from an adult ewe’s mammary gland. In Mobile, Alabama, the General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge is commonly referred to by a nickname, “the Dolly Parton Bridge,” due to its arches resembling Parton’s chest.
She is also known for having undergone considerable plastic surgery. On a 2003 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey asked what kind of cosmetic surgery Parton had undergone. Parton replied that cosmetic surgery was imperative in keeping with her famous image.
Parton has repeatedly joked about her physical image and surgeries, saying, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” Her breasts have garnered mention of her in several songs including: “Dolly Parton’s Hits” by Bobby Braddock, “Marty Feldman Eyes” by Bruce Baum (a parody of “Bette Davis Eyes”) and “Make Me Proud” by Drake ft. Nicki Minaj. When asked about future plastic surgeries, she famously said: “If I see something sagging, bagging or dragging, I’ll get it nipped, tucked or sucked.”
© Image credit
- Cash, Johnny (1998). Cash; the Autobiography.
- Nash, Alanna (1978). Dolly. Los Angeles, California: Reed Books. ISBN 0-89169-523-0.
- Parton, Dolly (1994). Dolly: My Life And Other Unfinished Business. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-017720-9.
- Whitburn, Joel (2005). Top Country Songs 1944-2005. Billboard/Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-165-9.
© Image credit
- Miller, Stephen (2008). Smart Blonde – Dolly Parton. Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-85712-007-6.
- Nash, Alanna (2002). Dolly: The Biography. Cooper Square Press. ISBN 978-0-8154-1242-7.
- Pasternak, Judith Mahoney (1998). Dolly Parton. Sterling Publishing. ISBN 978-1-56799-557-2.
- Parton, Dolly (2012). Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You. Putnam Pub Group. ISBN 9780399162480.
- Reporter: Morley Safer (June 7, 2009). “Dolly Parton: The Real Queen Of All Media”. 60 Minutes. CBS.