You can’t help but have a soft spot for Dolly Parton: that sweet, soulful voice, insanely big, blonde hair and even bigger, more insane bambalam boobs, those blue doe-eyes and self conscious kick-ass sense of humour – she’s the Southern belle of our dreams. She’s done so much more than write one of the best country pop songs of the 20th Century – Jolene (which Sisters of Mercy did a genius cover of) and skilfully use classic “dumb blonde” jokes to her advantage – she’s proven herself to be an enduringly savvy business woman with killer instincts.
It all started in 1946 in Tennesee, where Dolly was born into a poor family of 12 children. She began singing and songwriting at eight when she got her first guitar, singing on a Knoxville, Tennessee radio station at 11, recording her first songs that same year. The day after graduating high school she moved to Nashville, where she recorded tongue-in-cheek charting records including Dumb Blonde in 1967. She went on to perform regularly on the television show, the Grand Ole Opry in 1969, leaving in 1974 when her solo releases, including Jolene, were killing the charts. Dolly wrote the hit I Will Always Love You at this time. Best known for our generation as the intense Whitney Houston ballad from The Bodyguard we all pretended to hate when we were 14, but were secretly obsessed with.
In the 80s Dolly starred in the iconic flick Nine to Five – and got an Oscar nomination for the theme song. She was also in the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, where, as the madame of the whorehouse, she sang I Will Always Love You to Burt Reynolds. The 80s also saw Dolly pair up with Kenny Rogers on Islands in the Stream, a duet of perfection.
Dolly went on to make many more albums and hit tunes all through the 80s, 90s and 2000s – too many to mention – as well as being an iconic Playboy model and famously changing the landscape of her hometown Tennessee, with her own “Dollywood” theme park in 1985. (Is there really a boob shaped roller coaster?! I couldn’t find evidence to support it unfortunately, but I’m a believer) It’s still among the most popular holiday destinations in the South. The lady is a giver too – she’s donated over a million books to children across the United States and has set up a scholarship foundation for high school students in Tennessee where a life-size Dolly Parton statue stands at the front of the town courthouse.
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