Dolly Rebecca Parton Dean (born January 19, 1946 ) is an American singer-songwriter, actress, author, businesswoman, and humanitarian, known primarily for her work in country music. Her career began as a child performer, then recording a few singles from the age of 13. Relocating to Nashville at age 18 in 1964, her first commercial successes were as a songwriter. She rose to prominence in 1967 as a featured performer on singer Porter Wagoner’s weekly syndicated TV program; their first duet single, “The Last Thing on My Mind”, was a top-ten hit on the country singles chart and led to several successful albums before they ended their partnership in 1974. Moving towards mainstream pop music, her 1977 single “Here You Come Again” was a success on both the country and pop charts. A string of pop-country hits followed into the mid-1980s, the most successful being her 1980 hit “9 to 5” and her 1983 duet with Kenny Rogers “Islands in the Stream”, both of which topped the U.S. pop and country singles charts. A pair of albums recorded with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris were among her later successes. In the late 1990s, she returned to classic country/bluegrass with a series of acclaimed recordings. Non-musical ventures include Dollywood, a theme park in Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and her efforts on behalf of childhood literacy, particularly her Imagination Library, as well as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show.
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 eight Grammy Awards, two Academy Award nominations, ten Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, three 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 Bruce Springsteen for the most Grammy nominations and placing her in tenth place overall.
In 1999, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has composed over 3,000 songs, notably “I Will Always Love You” (a two-time U.S. country chart-topper for Parton, as well as an international pop hit for Whitney Houston). She is also one of the few to have received at least one nomination from the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, and Emmy Awards.
As an actress, she starred in films such as 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Rhinestone.
- 1 Early years
- 1.1 Career discovery
- 1.2 Marriage
- 2 Music career
- 2.1 1967–75: Country music success
- 2.2 1976–86: Branching out into pop music
- 2.3 1987–94: Return to country roots
- 2.4 1995–present
- 3 In concert and on tour
- 3.1 Dollywood Foundation Shows
- 3.2 Halos & Horns Tour
- 3.3 Hello, I’m Dolly Tour
- 3.4 The Vintage Tour
- 3.5 An Evening with Dolly Parton
- 3.6 Backwoods Barbie Tour
- 3.7 Better Day World Tour
- 3.8 Blue Smoke World Tour
- 4 Songwriting
- 4.1 Compositions in films and television and covers
- 4.2 9 to 5: The Musical
- 5 Acting career
- 5.1 Film
- 5.2 Television
- 6 Business ventures
- 6.1 The Dollywood Company
- 6.2 Film and television production company
- 7 Philanthropic efforts
- 7.1 Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
- 8 Awards and honors
- 9 Hall of Fame Honors
- 9.1 Philanthropy-related honors
- 10 Image
- 11 Discography
- 12 Filmography
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 Bibliography
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
Parton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, the fourth of twelve children of Robert Lee Parton (1921–2000), a farmer and construction worker, and his wife Avie Lee (née Owens) (1923–2003). Parton’s middle name comes from her maternal great-great grandmother, Rebecca (Dunn) Whitted (1861–1930). She has described her family as being “dirt poor”. Parton’s father paid with a bag of oatmeal the doctor who helped deliver her. She outlined her family’s poverty in her early songs: “Coat of Many Colors” and “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”. They lived in a rustic, one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, just north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, a predominantly Pentecostal area.
Music played an important role in her early life. She was brought up in the Church of God, the church her grandfather, Jake Robert Owens (1899–1992) pastored. Her earliest public performances were in the church, beginning at age six. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar. When she was eight years old, her uncle gave her her first real guitar.
Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the Eastern Tennessee area. By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At thirteen, she was recording (the single “Puppy Love”) on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her own instincts regarding her career.
The day after she graduated from high school in 1964, she moved to Nashville. Her initial success came as a songwriter, having signed with Combine Publishing shortly after her arrival; with her frequent songwriting partner, her uncle Bill Owens, she wrote several charting singles during this time, including two top ten hits: Bill Phillips’s 1966 record “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”, and Skeeter Davis’ 1967 hit “Fuel to the Flame”. Her songs were recorded by many other artists during this period, including Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr.. She signed with Monument Records in 1965, at 19, where she was initially pitched as a bubblegum pop singer. She released a string of singles, but the only one that charted, “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby”, did not crack the Billboard Hot 100. Although she expressed a desire to record country material, Monument resisted, thinking her unique voice with its strong vibrato was not suited to the genre.
It was only after her composition, “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”, as recorded by Bill Phillips (and with Parton, uncredited, on harmony), went to No. 6 on the country chart in 1966, that the label relented and allowed her to record country. Her first country single, “Dumb Blonde” (one of the few songs during this era that she recorded but did not write), reached No. 24 on the country chart in 1967, followed by “Something Fishy”, which went to No. 17. The two songs appeared on her first full-length album, Hello, I’m Dolly.
On May 30, 1966, Parton and Carl Thomas Dean (born July 20, 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee) were married in Ringgold, Georgia. Although Parton does not use Dean’s surname professionally, she has stated that her passport says “Dolly Parton Dean” and that she sometimes uses Dean when signing contracts.
Dean, who runs an asphalt road-paving business in Nashville, has always shunned publicity and rarely accompanies his wife to any events. According to Parton, he has only ever seen her perform once. However, she has also commented in interviews that, although it appears they spend little time together, it is simply that nobody sees him publicly. She has commented on Dean’s romantic side, saying that he does spontaneous things to surprise her and sometimes even writes poems for her.
Parton and Dean helped raise several of Parton’s younger siblings in Nashville, leading her nieces and nephews to refer to her as “Aunt Granny”, a moniker that later lent its name to one of Parton’s Dollywood restaurants. The couple have no children of their own but Parton is the godmother of performer Miley Cy
In 2011, the couple celebrated their 45th anniversary. Later, Parton said, “We’re really proud of our marriage. It’s the first for both of us. And the last.”