Women's History Month: Dolly Parton (all things country)

Dolly Rebecca Parton (born January 19, 1946) is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman, and humanitarian, known primarily for her work in country music. After achieving success as a songwriter for others, Parton made her album debut in 1967 with Hello, I’m Dolly. With steady success during the remainder of the 1960s (both as a solo artist and with a series of duet albums with Porter Wagoner), her sales and chart peak came during the 1970s and continued into the 1980s. Parton’s albums in the 1990s did not sell as well, but she achieved commercial success again in the new millennium and has released albums on various independent labels since 2000, including her own label, Dolly Records.

Parton’s music includes 25 Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)-certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards. She has had 25 songs reach No. 1 on the Billboard country music charts, a record for a female artist (tied with Reba McEntire). 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. She has garnered ten 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 47 Grammy nominations.

In 1999, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has composed over 3,000 songs, including “I Will Always Love You” (a two-time U.S. country chart-topper, as well as an international pop hit for Whitney Houston), “Jolene”, “Coat of Many Colors”, and “9 to 5”. 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 has starred in films such as 9 to 5 (1980) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), for which she earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress, as well as Rhinestone (1984), Steel Magnolias (1989), Straight Talk (1992) and Joyful Noise (2012).

Parton is a prolific songwriter, having begun by writing country-music songs with strong elements of folk music, based on her upbringing in humble mountain surroundings and reflecting her family’s Christian background. Her songs “Coat of Many Colors”, “I Will Always Love You”, and “Jolene”, among others, have become classics. On November 4, 2003, Parton was honored as a BMI Icon at the 2003 BMI Country Awards. Parton has earned over 35 BMI Pop and Country Awards. In 2001, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In a 2009 interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, she said she had written “at least 3,000” songs, having written seriously since the age of seven. Parton also said she writes something every day, be it a song or an idea.

Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton in 1969
Source: Moeller Talent, Inc. Nashville (management) 

Parton’s songwriting has been featured prominently in several films. In addition to the title song for 9 to 5, she also recorded a second version of “I Will Always Love You” for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). The second version was a number one country hit and also reached number 53 on the pop charts. “I Will Always Love You” has been covered by many country artists, including Ronstadt on Prisoner In Disguise (1975), Kenny Rogers on Vote for Love (1996), and LeAnn Rimes on Unchained Melody: The Early Years (1997). Whitney Houston performed it on The Bodyguard soundtrack and her version became the best-selling hit both written and performed by a female vocalist, with worldwide sales of over 12 million copies. In addition, the song has been translated into Italian and performed by the Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins.

Dolly Parton  The Kennedy Center Honors Living Legend Awards

As a songwriter, Parton has twice been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, for “9 to 5” and “Travelin’ Thru” (2005) from the film Transamerica. “Travelin’ Thru” won Best Original Song at the 2005 Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards. It was also nominated for both the 2005 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and the 2005 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award (also known as the Critics’ Choice Awards) for Best Song. A cover of “Love Is Like A Butterfly” by Clare Torry was used as the theme music for the British TV show Butterflies.

I had the honor of seeing her and Kenny in concert at the West Virginia state fair back in the early 80s. When I hear this song, I think of that evening:

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