Dolly Parton Talks Legacy, Equality, Whitney Houston & More
While many legendary entertainers back off the gas pedal as more years of their careers roll by, Dolly Parton is revving up, not slowing down. For instance, the Queen of Country will be honored on Feb. 8 during GRAMMY Week for her accomplishments as an artist and a humanitarian as the 2019 MusiCares Person Of The Year, with a diverse and impressive list of artists signing up to perform her songs, including Shawn Mendes, Willie Nelson, Katy Perry, Mavis Staples and more.
In fact, as she enters the sixth decade of her career, the eight-time GRAMMY winner is having one of her biggest years yet, hot off a hit collaboration with producer/songwriter Linda Perry on the soundtrack for the film Dumplin', which Parton also executive produced, and in production a series of television films series films to premiere on Netflix in 2019.
All this activity might overwhelm a less resilient megastar, but not Dolly. Parton was full of energy, gratitude and enthusiasm as she told the Recording Academy how she keeps all of these projects in perspective.
“You are on a journey with yourself and with God, and that’s the only two things you are really responsible for,” says Parton.
Her deeply personal and spiritual connection stems from a career of earning her keep and overcoming obstacles. Long before the recent #MeToo movement, Parton blazed a trail for strong, intelligent women by standing up for gender equality in her art and her business—and for that, she is a true inspiration.
"I really think it should not matter who you are whether it’s based on race, religion, color or gender," says Parton. "You should be allowed to do a job and do your job. If you do it well, you should be appreciated, respected, and admired. I’m proud that I’ve done well in this business. . . I try to live that as a woman. I try to let it stand in the songs I’ve written through the years long before there was ever a movement I was moving in it and talking about it even my first album was called Just Because I’m A Woman. It was based on that and my mistakes are no worse than yours and just because I’m a woman. I should get the same chance.
"And we did the '9 to 5' song, so I was trying to be an example," Paton continues. "I try to live it and be it rather than just preaching it, but everybody needs to do it their own way. So just get out there and not let anybody hold you down."
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, Parton has received more love than can be measured. As a fashion icon, she set a new standard for glamour and style, taking the country aesthetic to the boutique and the salon for a makeover of fabulous proportions. The GRAMMY Museum will celebrate and explore her incomparable swagger in a new exhibit, "Diamond In A Rhinestone World: The Costumes Of Dolly Parton," opening to the public on Feb. 5.
“I don’t really have a bucket list, I just carry my bucket around and sit down when I need to and fill it up with whatever I need to. I’m not going to sit on my bucket this year that’s for sure.” —Dolly Parton
Musically, she's been beyond influential as well, with countless artists following in her stead and recording various versions of her songs. When asked to name a favorite rendition of one of her songs, a pretty big one came to Dolly's mind immediately.
"I will always treasure, and should, the big crossover with Whitney [Houston] on ‘I Will Always Love You,' because that really put me in the forefront as a writer and an artist and I think it made a lot of people see me as a writer," says Parton. "I was just a girl with the big hair and big tits and a big personality, but I think that one kind of pointed a finger at me as a serious songwriter and the fact that it did so well and I was so touched by it and so honored by it that. That one will stand out in my mind forever."
Parton's staggering catalog of songs listens like a testament to her earth-shaking ability to change our world, our culture and our future—and in classic Dolly style, she makes it look and sound fun.
“I dreamed it. I wished it. I hoped it and I thought it, that I had what it could take,” she says. "When I saw my name in the Billboards and the Top 10 that I was doing something right and it was going to work."