Dolly Parton, 1946- (2023)

Dolly Parton, 1946- (1)
Dolly Parton [n.d.] Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

Born on January 19, 1946, in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, Dolly Rebecca Parton has traveled far beyond her roots. As one of twelve children born to a sharecropper in a one-room cabin in the Tennessee mountains, Parton was raised in relative poverty, but surrounded by music. With a musical career that launched at the age of ten, Parton has been performing publicly for nearly fifty of her fifty-eight years, becoming one of the most celebrated and most successful country music stars. Parton's superstardom, and the various genres in which she has excelled, are attested to by her many awards--more than two dozen albums gone gold, platinum or double platinum, an Academy Award nomination, Emmy and Golden Globe award nominations, countless Grammy nominations, and eight Grammy Awards, as well as dozens of People's Choice and Country Music Association awards.

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Parton's image as a dynamic pop-culture icon goes beyond that of a popular music star--she is known as a country music star with deep roots in the early Nashville country music scene, as an actress in Hollywood films, as a business woman with a theme park to her credit, and as a female giving voice to the experiences of women in the second half of the twentieth century. Parton's shift from her early Nashville roots to a more mainstream country style helped to broaden the audience for country music and to pave the way for other country music performers who have followed her.

Parton's career took inspiration from earlier female pioneers in country music, such as Rose Maddox and Molly O'Day of the 1940s, Kitty Wells of the 1950s, and Brenda Lee and Patsy Cline of the 1960s. Parton, like these women, significantly contributed to the country music scene, largely dominated by men until the 1950s, simply by creating a female identity and giving voice to female perspectives. When Parton emerged in the late 1960s, women in rural and working-class southern America were the primary audience for country music. These women were restricted to relatively subordinate roles, so that even the initially mild, but nevertheless empowering, statements found in the lyrics of these female country singers had a real impact. Parton's progressive lyrics and her willingness to speak out despite potentially adverse consequences made her stand out among female performers.

Speaking her mind and her heart has been one of the strongest characteristics of Parton's work and has won her fans, both male and female, internationally. A recent article in the Journal of Popular Culture explores why Zimbabweans have such a strong attachment to Parton and her music. The conclusion is that her tendency to give voice to working-class values and to be open regarding her own underprivileged past, allows Zimbabweans to identify strongly with her character and her music.

Parton's exceptional musical talent reveals itself in her lyrics, as well as her vocal ability. Her lyrics are often in the vein of the Appalachian ballads that surrounded her as a child--she tells stories with succinctly developed narratives and a sense of humor, translating country tragedies into song. And her voice, a shimmering and lilting soprano softened with a breathy trill and vibrato, is widely acknowledged to be among the most expressive in country music.

(Video) The Tragic Life Story Of Dolly Parton

Parton's Career

Even as a student, Parton worked hard on her music career, making recordings for three different labels before graduating from high school. Her earliest recorded song, "Puppy Love," made when she was around twelve years old, already shows her mastery of the Hank Williams and Kitty Wells honky-tonk style. Her rendition of six songs "made famous by Kitty Wells" (appearing on one side of Hits Made Famous by Country Queens), recorded for the Somerset company in 1962, was actually only three songs made famous by Wells. Two of the other three were traditional ballads, and the last, written in modern ballad style, was by Parton herself.

After graduating from high school in 1964, Parton moved to Nashville, where she pursued her music career full time. She soon signed with the Monument label, which was more interested in marketing her as a pop singer than as a country singer, as is evident in many of her early recordings for them. But Parton was up to the challenge, and penned several catchy pop songs. During this time, she also sold her songs around Nashville. Her big break came in 1966 when country singer Bill Phillips heard Parton's demo for her song "Put it Off Until Tomorrow," which she had written and copyrighted the previous year. Not only did Phillips want to record the song, he wanted to record it using the "girl singer on the demo." The Decca recording turned into one of the biggest country hits of 1966 (and BMI Song of the Year), and brought Parton to the attention of DJs all over the country, both for her beautiful back-up vocal work, and also for her heartbreaking song, which still stands as one of her best. After the success of this song, Parton started recording more country material for Monument, including her first solo hit, "Dumb Blonde," which made it to the charts in 1967.

All of a sudden, Parton was a big name in the music business. Porter Wagoner invited her to be his new "girl singer" on his TV show after her predecessor, Norma Jean, left to get married. (As a supplement to Parton's solo career, Wagoner and Parton would make records as a duo for the next eight years.) In 1967, Monument put out her first solo LP, Hello, I'm Dolly. Shortly afterwards, RCA Victor--at the time one of the biggest of the big record labels--signed her, thus beginning a collaboration that lasted nearly 20 years. From being a regular on the Grand Ole Opry, and singing crossover hits that increased her popularity both as a country music and as a pop music star, to enjoying a syndicated television show and roles in several box-office hits (such as 9 to 5), as well as collaborations with numerous major music stars and innumerable awards, Parton climbed from local star to regional, then national, and finally international star. Her discography alone, especially during the early and mid-'70s, is evidence of her prolific talent and success. In the late '60s and early '70s, she usually released three or more LPs of new material each year.

Parton's Musical Influences

Though sometimes overshadowed by the more glamorous aspects of Parton's popular image, traditional Appalachian folk, country, and bluegrass music have played an important role in her life, to a much greater extent than one might imagine from looking at the bulk of her career. In an interview in 1999, Parton explained: "As a child, I was always around music, and all of my people played fiddles, mandolins, banjos and guitars. So every kid in my family was used to having those just laying around. I was especially in love with the banjo . . . And actually, if I don't have these artificial fingernails on, I can play the banjo, that old clawhammer style. When I was little, I could really get a move on it." But even with this rich mix of musical ingredients in her youth, it was not until the late 1990s that Parton would really begin to explore and pay tribute to these musical roots by producing three albums in bluegrass style: The Grass Is Blue, Little Sparrow, and Halos & Horns.

(Video) With heavy hearts as we report the sad news of 76-year-old singer Dolly Parton, goodbye and rest.

Still, traces of her roots can be seen in her earlier work. On one of her earliest recordings, Hits made famous by Country Queens (1963), two songs ("Two Little Orphans" and "Little Blossoms") are traditional Appalachian ballads, while another ("Letter to Heaven") is written by Parton in a similar ballad style. In her Victor recording years, she wrote several songs reflecting her Appalachian roots and her love of traditional music. These included "My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy"(1969), "Down from Dover" (1970, re-recorded in 2001 for her album Little Sparrow), "Coat of Many Colors" (1971, which she wrote about her childhood), and several songs on her LP My Tennessee Mountain Home (1973).

Whether the release is an album of straightforward country-pop or an album paying direct homage to her roots, the various musical experiences of Parton's formative years shine through: early country, honky tonk, Appalachian music, gospel and bluegrass, and even jazz and blues. Music critics and scholars recognize the extraordinary mix of influences heard in Parton's songs, often finding numerous genres layered into the construction of a single verse or chorus. Her childhood foundation in Appalachian music, the spirituals she heard in church, the experiences as a youth in country-music radio, and her years steeped in the Nashville tradition have culminated in the diverse and eclectic sounds that make Dolly Parton's music so unique and satisfying today.


Nash, Alanna. Dolly: The Biography. Updated ed. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002.

O'Dair, Barbara, ed. The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. New York: Random House, 1997.

(Video) Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers - Islands In The Stream

Santelli, Robert; Holly George-Warren; and Jim Brown, eds. American Roots Music. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001.

Weisberger, Jon. "Dolly Goes Bluegrass." Bluegrass Now Magazine 9, no. 12 (1999).

Unterberger, Richie. Music USA. London: Rough Guides Limited, 1999.

Zilberg, Jonathan. "Yes, It's True: Zimbabweans Love Dolly Parton." Journal of Popular Culture 29 (Summer 1995): 111-26.

(Video) Dolly Parton - I Will Always Love You 1974


When was Dolly Parton first discovered? ›

Parton's pivotal career moment came in 1967, in the form of a phone call from the syndicated television series The Porter Wagoner Show, whose flashy-dressing, traditional country–singing host was looking to replace his duet partner, Norma Jean. As a team, Wagoner and Parton became immediate audience favorites.

How did Dolly Parton get famous? ›

She became a child star on local radio and TV, recording her first single at 13 and moving to Nashville the day after she graduated from high school. There she wrote several hits for other artists while still in her teens, before scoring her first solo hit in 1966 with Dumb Blonde.

What was Dolly Parton's first song? ›

Parton professionally recorded her first single, "Puppy Love," in 1957. Parton wrote the song with her uncle when she was 11 and released the single, along with the B-track "Girl Left Alone," on Goldband Records in 1959.

What was Dolly Parton's first movie role? ›

In 1980 Parton made her theatrical film debut as Doralee Rhodes in 9 to 5.

What are 3 interesting facts about Dolly Parton? ›

7 Fun Facts About Dolly Parton, the Queen of Country
  • She Was Born REALLY Poor. ...
  • She's Got Guinness Records. ...
  • Her Nails Are a Musical Instrument! ...
  • Parton's 'Imagination Library' has mailed 172 million books to kids. ...
  • She Doesn't Ride the Rides at Dollywood. ...
  • She Wrote Two of Her Biggest Hits During the Same Session.
Feb 9, 2022

What is Dolly short for? ›

Dolly is a given name and nickname, often a diminutive of the English personal names Dorothy and Dolores.

Where did Dolly Parton get her money? ›

Parton made her fortune through an entertainment empire that she built with years of hard work. She has created more than 40 top-10 country albums and won nine Grammy awards — a testament to the popularity of her music. Her movies have also been popular at the box office.

What is Dolly Parton's real name? ›

January 19, 1946

Dolly Rebecca Parton is born to Robert Lee Parton and Avie Lee Parton near Sevierville, Tennessee.

Did Dolly Parton save a life? ›

But lucky for Hill, somebody grabbed and pulled her back. When she looked up, she was surprised to find out that the person who saved her was none other than Dolly Parton. “I was in shock, she hugged me and shook me and said, 'I saved your life!' ” Hill said.

Does Dolly Parton have tattoos? ›

The 76-year-old revealed to PEOPLE, "I do have some tattoos, that's true. But they're tasteful. I'm not a tattoo girl." Dolly admitted she's gotten ink to help cover up her scars from procedures and previous surgeries.

What is Dolly Parton's best selling song? ›

Jolene. Dolly's most famous song is also her best. The song tells the tale of a woman confronting Jolene, a beautiful woman, who she believes is trying to steal away her lover/husband.

Why does Dolly Parton wear gloves? ›

Therefore this is likely the reasons she loves wearing longer sleeves or gloves. Parton explained: “I have a tendency to have keloid scar tissue, and I have a tendency where if I have any kind of scars anywhere then they kind of have a purple tinge that I can never get rid of.

How did Dolly Parton's parents pay for her birth? ›

Her parents used this to pay for her birth

The Tennessee native was born in the Great Smoky Mountains. Parton's father, Robert paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of oatmeal, shared Eastern Sevier County.

What movie made Dolly Parton famous? ›

9 to 5 (1980)

The movie officially launched Parton into super-stardom and spawned a hit Broadway musical, a documentary and, of course, Parton's original song "9 to 5." Parton's career-launching role as Doralee Rhodes earned her a Golden Globe nomination.

What did Dolly Parton do before she became famous? ›

At age 10, she started performing professionally, appearing on local television and radio shows in Knoxville. Parton made her Grand Ole Opry debut three years later. Set on a career in music, she then moved to Nashville after finishing high school.

Why does Dolly Parton cover her hands with gloves? ›

According to Dolly's creative director Steve Summers, the singer wears gloves as a matter of style. “She doesn't like her elbows,” Steve told InStyle. “[They ask] 'what's wrong with her hands? ' She's 73, and she doesn't like them!”

What is Dolly Parton's favorite food? ›

Roasted Pork with Gravy

When the New York Times interviewed Dolly Parton, she claimed that roast pork was her favorite dish for entertaining. She loves a good, Southern greasy dish and with a nice fatty pork loin you'll understand why.

Why does Dolly Parton cover her arms and hands? ›

"However, I can relay third-hand information that she was asked about the gloves by fans while filming scenes for her upcoming movie Joyful Noise and told them that last year she had had corrective hand surgery (medical, not cosmetic) and it left a scar that she's covering.

What name is Tilly short for? ›

It is generally a variant/diminutive for the German name Matilda.

What is Peggy short for? ›

Peggy is a female first name (often curtailed to "Peg") derived from Meggy, a diminutive version of the name Margaret.

What is the most popular baby name? ›

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Top 10 Baby Names of 2021.
RankMale nameFemale name
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Who gave Dolly Parton $100 million dollars? ›

Dolly Parton receives $100 million award from Jeff Bezos: 'I will do my best to do good things with this money' Country music superstar Dolly Parton is no stranger to charitable giving. In 2020, she donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University's coronavirus research, which helped create Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine.

Did Dolly Parton ever have a job? ›

"My first job was trying to become a songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee. Since I wasn't making any money," Parton admits, "I got a job at an outdoor sign company called Northern Outdoor Sign." Her neighbor owned the company, and he gave Parton the opportunity to handle some secretarial tasks.

Does Dolly Parton own all of Dollywood? ›

Dolly Parton is not the CEO

The park is still owned and operated by Herschend Family Entertainment, which also owns SeaWorld and more than 20 other theme parks in the United States. However, Dolly Parton does sit on the board and is integral in planning the events and attractions of the park.

How many babies did Dolly Parton have? ›

They do not have children, but Parton has been involved in the lives of millions of kids through her Imagination Library, which has given more than 100 million books to children from birth until they enter kindergarten.

Is Dolly Parton related to Miley Cyrus? ›

Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus share a special bond. Aside from being two of the most successful singers in the music industry, they also share a familial connection: Parton is Cyrus' godmother. Over the years, the two have given several glimpses of their tight-knit relationship, both on screen and stage.

Could Dolly Parton have a child? ›

Dolly Parton went though "a dark time" in her 30s after being told she would not be able to have children. The country star, who married husband Carl Dean aged 20, underwent a partial hysterectomy after an illnesse caused her to pass out on stage.

What does Dolly Parton do to give back? ›

Parton is known for donating books to children through her foundation's Imagination Library.

What Dolly Parton turned down? ›

Country legend Dolly Parton just withdrew herself from consideration for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the most polite way. After being nominated for induction into the prestigious institution, Parton took to Instagram to share why she must respectfully decline.

What did Dolly Parton do to change the world? ›

In 1988, she set up the Dollywood Foundation, initially an education foundation to decrease the high school dropout rates in Tennessee. In 1995 the foundation set up Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a book-gifting program that now distributes 1m books a month to children worldwide.

Why doesn't Dolly show her arms? ›

Ever notice that Dolly Parton is also always wearing long sleeves? In an interview with Vanity Fair, Dolly commented on rumors that she wears them to cover up her tattoos, emphasizing that she doesn't like that people make such a big deal about them.

Does Dolly Parton wear pants? ›

Parton told Vogue in 2020 that she prefers performing in pants rather than dresses because she moves around a lot and wants something comfortable for when she gets up and down from her stool.

How much does Dolly Parton weigh? ›

Date of birth: January 19, 1946 (Age 72) Full name: Dolly Rebecca Parton Born place: Sevier County, Tennessee, USA Height: 5'0'' (152 cm) Weight: 52 kg (115 pounds) Dolly Parton's body measurements: Chest: 41” (104 cm) Waist: 25” (64 cm) Hips: 38” (97 cm) Hair color: Blonde Eye color: Green Dolly Parton is an ...

What is Dolly Parton's favorite song she wrote? ›

Parton has often cited “Coat of Many Colors” as one of her favorite songs that she has ever written. “My favorite, favorite song from a very personal level is 'Coat of Many Colors,'” shared Parton, who added that the song is often used to teach grammar in schools in Tennessee as well as anti-bullying.

How many number 1 songs did Dolly Parton have? ›

Parton holds the distinction of having the most number one hits by a female artist on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart (25).

How many number 1 hits did Dolly Parton have? ›

Parton holds the record for the most number one hits by a female country artist (25) and the record for most top 10 country albums on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart (41).

What does Dolly Parton do for skin? ›

Dolly Parton shared the simple skincare practice that keeps her skin healthy and glowing. She doesn't believe expensive products or fancy serums are necessary to have good skin, but sun protection is. “I don't have a lot of the same problems that women my age do 'cause I never baked myself in the sun.”


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