Dolly Parton — the woman whose figure launched a thousand jokes — is a serious musician.
Beyond that, the Dolly that comes through in profiles and interviews as upbeat and likable. Indeed, there just is a feeling is that the real person — at least as far as interviewers and profile writers can dig — is the one that the public sees. That’s refreshing, and hopefully the case. She represents the non self-conscious fun and humility of country music.
The other side of the coin is the massive success that Parton has attained. Wikipedia has the numbers, and they are startling:
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 8 Grammy Awards, 2 Academy Award nominations, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 7 Academy of Country Music Awards, 3 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 Beyoncé for the most Grammy nominations for a woman and placing her in eighth place overall.
Dolly Parton’s Poor, Rural Roots
Parton was born in 1946 in rural Tennessee, the fourth of 12 children.The family was poor and religious. She moved to Nashville the day after her high school graduation and began working as a songwriter. She had some success and embarked on a parallel pop — not country — singing career. Country singing came a bit later.
The profiles chart an upward trajectory, fueled by a supportive family and an early partnership with Porter Wagoner, the host of an important country music television show. Indeed, her upward rise reads like a Hollywood story of a country girl who makes it big. It’s also nice to note that Parton has been married to the same man since 1966.
The bottom line is that Dolly Parton is an extraordinarily talented and successful entertainer. It’s all the better if she can achieve so much with a smile on her face.
Above is “Jolene,” recorded at Glastonbury 2014. Here is an adoring review of her performance by Neil McCormick in The Telegraph. Below is “Islands in the Stream,” a hit collaboration with Kenny Rogers that was written by The Bee Gees.