Dolly Parton is the Undisputed Queen of Everything and the Glowing Center of the Universe and Also Possibly a Human Unicorn
By Jaime Lees
Fri, Jul 29, 2016
Dolly Parton was born when a rainbow arched down from heaven and touched a butterfly. She is exponentially better than any other being on Earth and is clearly a gift to humankind from something otherworldly. More than just one of the greatest living entertainers, Dolly Parton is proof that God loves us and that She wants us to be kind to each other and to connect through music.
Parton grew up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Her childhood in rural Appalachia was difficult and touched by poverty and strife. These hardships just made her stronger and more determined to bring her talents to the world. The day after becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school, Parton moved to Nashville to pursue her singing career. Parton had just one suitcase, but it was stuffed with possibilities.
It wasn’t an easy life, but through decades of hard work and a series of shrewd business moves, Parton eventually became one of the most venerated performers of all time. She’s also a major cultural icon — her style, ambition and relentless positivity are known all over the world.
Let’s celebrate the many reasons that Dolly Parton should be worshipped.
Dolly Parton is a true hustler who is unfazed by struggle.
Parton had every reason in life to fail, but has never been distracted from her mission. She knew she wanted to be a singer from an early age and started working toward her goal when she was just a child. She performed for anybody (or any farm animal) who would listen. Parton came from a musical family who recognized and encouraged her talents. Her uncle had some experience in the music business and started taking her out on tour. Parton was featured on local radio shows and her skills were so profound so immediately that she even managed to cut her first record at age ten. After moving to Nashville in 1964 at age eighteen, Dolly had very little money while waiting for her big break. She was often so hungry that she would roam the halls of hotels looking for discarded room service trays. Having grown up extremely poor, Parton was not dissuaded and somehow managed to persevere. Nothing has ever stopped her from achieving her goals.
Dolly Parton wrote the greatest autobiography in the history of the world.
Her 1995 book Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business was wildly popular, and for good reason. It’s the story of her younger years on through her rise to international fame. It’s not just any old biography, though. The book is full of Parton’s patented quips, observations, advice and homespun wisdom. Parton’s superior storytelling skills shine in this format and she includes so many unexpected details, like gossip about her personal life and insight into her way of thinking. It’s surprisingly progressive and unexpectedly well-rounded. (She even comments on social issues and Sid Vicious.) The book is also very sex-positive and Parton reveals that spirituality and sexuality are two of the main driving forces in her life. (And the part where a teenage Parton meets and lusts after Johnny Cash is one of the most hilarious, relatable stories ever told.)
Dolly Parton is the most honored female country music performer of all time.
She’s had 25 songs reach number one on the Billboard Country charts and she’s released 41 top ten country albums. Parton has also had more than 100 million sales worldwide. She’s received eight Grammys and has been nominated for a Grammy some 46 times. She’s noted as one of the original “crossover” country artists and she explored pop music at a time when success in both fields was unheard of and unlikely. She’s quoted as saying, “I’m not leaving country, I’m taking it with me.” That’s exactly what she did. She somehow stayed true to her roots while exploring disco and duets. When it comes to crossing over, Parton built the bridge.
Dolly Parton is a humanitarian who has done more for literacy rates than any politician.
Parton should be sainted for this one act alone. Twenty years ago she founded Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Imagination Library is a program that distributes free books to children. The program started out small, beginning with book distribution in Sevier County, TN— the poverty-stricken area where Parton was born and raised. The Imagination Library fosters “a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families” by sending them one free book every month until the age of five. This venture has been massively successful and has expanded across the world, with Dolly making the program “available for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it locally.” To date, she’s mailed out over 80,000,000 books and provides free books to over 750,000 children each month. In just this month she’s distributed 958,638 books to children all around the globe.
Dolly Parton brings industry to the jobless and a dream to the downtrodden.
The public is aware of Dollywood, Dolly’s namesake theme park, but few know the scope of its influence. It houses the Chasing Rainbows Museum (a museum of Dolly-specific exhibits) and is also a destination for family-style fun including roller coasters and a sprawling water park. But Dollywood is not a self-obsessed icon’s tribute to herself. The business brings tourism and major career opportunities to an otherwise very economically depressed region. Parton described Dollywood as “part of some greater purpose” and has said that she wanted to be involved with something that would bring jobs to the area. She built her own regional financial structure there on that 295-acre slice of land — one that has served the local people and brought joy to visitors since 1986. In addition, Dollywood serves as an unofficial Smoky Mountain cultural education center, featuring the traditional crafts and music of Appalachia. It’s also the site of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.
Dolly Parton is a humble philanthropist who does a huge amount of unpublicized charity work.
Parton gives what could be considered an extreme amount of money to worthy causes. In her home state of Tennessee, she’s supported, put her name on or raised awareness for literally hundreds of various charity endeavors. She’s given millions to hospitals and veterans’ rehabs (not to mention the Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services and the Dolly Parton Birthing Unit), but she also helps to float untold amounts of private charities. Her generosity is not limited to foundations, either. There are numerous accounts of her covering medical and educational costs for her employees, her family and her friends. She’s even flirted with the idea of setting up a long-term program to gift each graduating local high school student with $500. Parton expands her kindness to the animal kingdom, too. She even set up a freakin’ bald eagle sanctuary and education center on the Dollywood grounds.
Dolly Parton is a revolutionary and a fearless gay rights activist.
From the very beginning of her career, Dolly has embraced and engaged her queer audience, once famously even entering (and losing) in a Dolly look-a-like drag competition. She has often spoken out on behalf of her gay brothers and sisters and has done much to normalize queerness in the minds of her more conservative fans. When there is a national tragedy, as was the case recently in Orlando, Parton always finds a way to try to offer some comfort. In her personal life, Parton’s sexualty has come into question many times throughout her career. Though she’s been married to a man, Carl Dean, for more than 50 years, she’s often suggested that they have an open relationship arrangement. Parton’s close relationship with her best friend Judy Ogle has been a source of much speculation. (They’re the original Oprah and Gayle King.) Parton eventually denied these rumors, but does admit to semi-romantic scenes with Judy like running naked in the moonlight together “when the honeysuckle blooms.” (This is all included in her book.) Whatever her personal sexual preference, though, Parton’s support of LGBTQIA causes has been proud and loud and unwavering for decades.
Dolly Parton is a loving individual and a true Christian.
Parton mentions God frequently, and sees God as all-loving and benevolent. She doesn’t buy into the idea of a vengeful God or a judging God. She doesn’t mess with the taking up of serpents that she witnessed in her childhood. She isn’t one of those people who goes to church on Sundays and judges people on the other six days of the week, but one who believes in working daily to help the less fortunate and all creatures — as witnessed in her unending charity work. From her activism to the way that she gives back to the way that she holds up those less fortunate than herself, Parton is a shining example of selflessness and service. She has always found a way to gift anything that she has gained to those who have needed it. She’s also consistent about expressing her thankfulness along the way. Parton has always preached nothing but love to each human who has crossed her path and she seems absolutely determined to share her many blessings.
Dolly Parton has a heart of gold but she also doesn’t take any shit.
Though she is holy and delightful, Parton doesn’t mess around. She will firmly put people in their place. She also has that sly way of insulting people that is uniquely Southern. (She has blessed many hearts in her time, no doubt.) Parton could devastate you with a wink, a smile or one well-placed word. But when the going gets rough, Parton is not to be messed with. She once even pulled a gun on a man who got fresh with her on the street in New York after she and best friend Judy had left a porno theatre and were mistaken for hookers. (Yep, all in The Book.) Parton’s gun was backed with her shriek of “You touch me one more time, you son of a bitch, and I’m gonna blow your nuts off!” She would, too. She’s a thorny cactus wrapped in rhinestones.
Dolly Parton is a smart beam of sunshine who can write the crap out of a song.
Parton considers “Coat of Many Colors” to be her signature song, but most people who are unfamiliar with her work still know that she wrote “I Will Always Love You,” made exceedingly famous almost twenty years after it was written when Whitney Houston covered it for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard. “I Will Always Love You” became one of the best selling singles of all time and is the best selling single by a woman in music history. Parton started writing songs when she was seven years old and estimates that she’s written more than 5,000 songs in her lifetime. She considers songwriting to be her true talent and the heart of her career. Parton is also smartly protective of her publishing rights and won’t hand them over to anybody. Even Elvis Presley tried and was denied. (He wanted to cover “I Will Always Love You” but would only do so if she turned over part of her rights. Parton told Presley no.) She considers her publishing rights to be her legacy and her gift to her family for generations to come, although she is clearly leaving them much more than just that.
Dolly Parton is a charming sass machine who is more quotable than Oscar Wilde.
Parton is a noted pop philosopher. Her many sayings and razor sharp wit have become part of our cultural history. She’s also hilariously self-deprecating (especially when it comes to her appearance) and she’s quick to counter any haters with humor. Here are some examples:
“If you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain.”
“It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”
“Storms make trees take deeper roots.”
“I’m not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb. I also know that I’m not blonde.”
“It’s a good thing that I was born a girl or I’d definitely have been a drag queen.”
“People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair. How should I know? I’m never there.”
“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
“My feet are small for the same reason my waist is small — things don’t grow in the shade.”
“They say all good things must come to an end. I say all things must come to new beginnings.”
“I know some of the best Dolly Parton jokes. I made ‘em up myself.”
Dolly Parton is a badass and a supremely successful businessperson.
Like many who grew up poor, Parton seems fixated on money. She talks about it frequently and it’s the source of many of her trademark Dollyisms. (“Every day I count my blessings. Then I count my money.”) She jokes that she tours because she “needs the money” but Forbes recently stated that Parton made $19 million just last year. Since the time she came to prominence, she’s always brought in the big bucks. When she was hired for the Porter Wagoner show in 1967, she was brought in for $60,000 a year — an insanely huge income jump for a young woman who’d recently been so destitute that she was literally starving. Aside from Dollywood, she negotiates multi-million dollar contracts for Las Vegas shows, has her own record label, her own production companies, her own publishing companies — and then there was that cushy acting career. One could assume that Parton is doing just fine financially, but she always seems to be out for more. Maybe that’s because she uses that money to fund all of her charities or because she balances a large chunk of the economy of the state of Tennessee under that wig. Ticket prices to her live shows are appropriately expensive, but many see it as investing in the Dolly Parton charity machine.
Dolly Parton was born a feminist and should be a hero to all women.
“Being a woman in show business is like being a bird dog in heat. If you stand still, they’ll screw you. If you run, they’ll bite you in the ass. I have learned to use all of that to my advantage.”
– Dolly Parton
Parton hunts down every glass ceiling and blows right through it. She also loves to be underestimated and sees it as an opportunity to pounce. Much has been made of her exaggerated feminine appearance, but her performance of gender often seems like just an elaborate way to distract her prey — like a holographic fishing lure in human form. By presenting herself as this nonthreatening, tarted-up portrait of womanhood, Parton gets to slide through security undetected and reach all of her goals. Those who would judge her just based on her looks were due to learn a hard lesson. Parton has always exceeded all expectations and when it comes to success she is unstoppable.
Dolly Parton is clearly some sort of celestial being or magical unicorn or altruistic alien or luminous oracle or maternal angel and we are unworthy of her glory.
Never has a person encountered Dolly Parton and not fallen in love with her. She should be cloned just in case something ever happens to her. She is not of this dimension. Even those who know her best would agree. See this passage about an interaction between her 9 to 5 co-star Jane Fonda and her husband Carl:
Still haven’t fallen in love? Check out this swoon-wrothy 1977 interview with Barbara Walters:
If you feel the need to genuflect before the goddess, Dolly Parton performs tomorrow night at the Scottrade Center. Tickets are still available here.
– link: Riverfront Times