Dolly Parton is a cultural icon whose powerful voice and songwriting skills have established her
as a presence on both the country and pop music charts for decades.
Dolly Rebecca Parton (born January 19, 1946) is an American singer, songwriter, multi-
instrumentalist, actress, author, businesswoman, and humanitarian, known primarily for her
work in country music. She is one of 12 children of Avie Lee (née Owens) and tobacco farmer
Robert Lee Parton, and grew up on a rundown farm in Locust Ridge, Tennessee.
Her autobiographical single “Coat of Many Colors” reveals the poverty of growing up one of 12
children on a rundown farm in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. At the age of 12, she was appearing
on Knoxville television; at 13, she was recording on a small label and appearing on the Grand
Ole Opry. Her 1967 hit “Dumb Blonde” (which she’s not) caught Porter Wagoner’s ear, and he
hired Parton to appear on his television show, where their duet numbers became famous. By
the time her song “Joshua” reached number one in 1970, Parton’s fame had overshadowed her
boss’ and she struck out on her own. During the mid-’70s, she established herself as a country
superstar, and crossed over into the pop mainstream in the early ’80s when she smoothed out
the rough edges in her music and began singing pop as well as country. At the same time, she
also began appearing in movies, most notably the hit 9 to 5.
Though her savvy marketing, image manipulation, extracurricular forays into film, and flirtations
with country-pop have occasionally overshadowed her music, at her core Parton is a country gal
and a tremendously gifted singer/songwriter. Among her classics are “Coat of Many Colors,”
“Jolene,” “Kentucky Gambler,” “I Will Always Love You,” “But You Know I Love
However, by 1985 many old-time fans felt that Parton was spending too much time courting the
mainstream. Most of her albums were dominated by the adult contemporary pop of songs like
didn’t disappear. Parton remained an iconic figure in country music, appearing in films (the 1991
TV movie Wild Texas Wind, 1992’s Straight Talk), selling out concerts, and releasing a series of
acclaimed albums — including 1993’s Honky Tonk Angels, a collaboration with Tammy Wynette
and Loretta Lynn — that all sold respectably. Furthermore, “I Will Always Love You” was covered
in 1992 by Whitney Houston, who took it to number one on the pop charts; the single spent 14
weeks at number one, becoming the biggest pop hit of the rock & roll era.
In 2015, Parton’s classic song “Coat of Many Colors” was adapted into a made-for-TV movie,
which featured Alyvia Alyn Lind as the young Dolly Parton and Jennifer Nettles (from the group
Sugarland) as her mother. Parton was a producer on the film, which became a major success,
and a Christmas-themed sequel was put into production for the 2016 holiday season. In the
summer of 2016, Parton announced that she was headlining a 60-date North American concert
tour, her most extensive run of shows in 25 years. The jaunt was being billed as the Pure &
Simple Tour, and not coincidentally, she also revealed she was releasing a new album in
August 2016, a set of ten original love songs also called Pure & Simple.
In October 2017, Parton released her first children’s album, I Believe in You; the album debuted
at 20 on Billboard’s Country charts. A year later, she returned with the soundtrack to Dumplin’, a
comedy where her music plays a pivotal role. On the soundtrack, Parton collaborated with Linda
Perry on three songs, while duetting with Sia, Elle King, Mavis Staples, and Miranda Lambert on
new tunes and a handful of her classics. In 2019, Parton was the subject of a popular podcast
series produced by Jad Abumrad, host of NPR’s Radiolab. Titled Dolly Parton’s America, it
explored her uniting influence within American culture from a variety of different angles. The
following year she released the single “When Life Gets Good Again,” produced and co-written
by Kent Wells. A response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the song arrived on the heels of her ten-
week web series Goodnight with Dolly, in which she read bedtime stories culled from her non-
profit children’s literacy book club Imagination Library. Along with the single, Parton donated
one-million dollars to Vanderbilt Medical Center to help aid in coronavirus vaccination research.
Later in 2020, she released her third holiday-themed album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, which
featured an eclectic array of guests including Jimmy Fallon, Michael Bublé, and Miley Cyrus.
As of April 2020, Dolly Parton’s net worth has gone up to $600 million.8
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