Celebrating Women: Dolly Parton marks 60 years in music

Hidden History

Dolly Parton went from one of twelve children born to a sharecropper in the mountains of Tennessee to one of music’s most celebrated acts. 

It’s hard to find anything more impressive than her trophy case.  Inside you’ll find more than two dozen best-selling albums, dozens of People’s Choice and Country Music Association awards, and eight Grammys.

During this year’s Grammys broadcast, Parton’s 60-year career was celebrated by some of music’s biggest acts.  It’s a moment the country star won’t soon forget.

“I really felt very honored and proud to actually be here after all these years,” Parton said.  “To still be here and to still be relevant in the business…I feel very honored and very blessed.  And I’m very grateful for that.”

Think Parton may start slowing down — or even consider retirement?  Think again. 

“I’m just always on the job,” Parton said. “You can’t pull back for a year or so and expect people to remember you. I have never left the scene. I try to think I am relevant because I work hard all the time.”

As impressive as her musical accolades might be, it’s her work with children that may have made the biggest impact. The Dollywood Foundation, including the Imagination Library, has provided more than 100 million books to kids.

“It is still one of my favorite things and one of the things that I will always be most proud of,” Parton said.

Despite the unmatched feat, she remains humble.

“I really like to believe that I’ve been a good example for country people — for southern people in general,” Parton said. “I’ve never tried to be different than what I was.  I just wanted to be my best self. I’m proud to be a country person; I’ve never tried to lose my accent.”  

The road wasn’t always easy for Parton.  When she broke into the music business in the 1960s, she entered a male-dominated industry.  Even so, she was able to break through in a big way.

“I never linked it to being whether I was a girl or a boy.  I had these songs. I had this dream.  I had this talent, so I just went for that,” Parton added.

And you might say “going for it” is exactly what Parton did when she was approached about her first movie “9 to 5.” Not only was it a box-office hit, it was a movie designed to shine a light on an important issue for women.

“Jane Fonda, who co-produced that movie, she is the one who came up with the idea,” Parton said of “9 to 5.”

“She got in touch with Pat Resnick, who wrote the script,” she said.: “And it really was a way to empower women and put them in the spotlight and say, ‘Hey we know what we are doing here. We are good at what we do. And we deserve to paid for what we do and be respected for what we do.'”

Despite fame and fortune, Parton has never wavered from her mission to give back and bring honor to her family. The proud performer is hopeful she’s paved the way for other women who can learn from her example.

“Just believe in yourself and know who you are,” she added. “Stand your own ground and don’t take no for an answer. Just respect yourself; respect each other as women. Respect the good men and appreciate them.  Do what you need to do about the rest.”

Parton says women can’t be afraid to celebrate the success of others.  She’s always done it.

“I love seeing women do well,” she added. “I’m so happy that I did well as a woman.”

Read more stories Celebrating Women here

In the video extra below, WJHL’s Josh Smith talks with Parton about representing her southern upbringing. Click here if you’re having trouble seeing the video.

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