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Dolly Parton Talks Legacy, Equality, Whitney Houston & More

Dolly Parton

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Dolly Parton Talks Legacy, Equality, Whitney Houston & More

The Queen Of Country sat down with the Recording Academy to cover all things Dolly, past, present and future

GRAMMYs/Feb 2, 2019 - 12:12 am

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."

Dolly Parton Primer: 10 Must-Hear Songs By The Queen Of Country

ReImagined: Judy Whitmore Dazzles With A Classic Interpretation Of Frank Sinatra And Count Basie's "The Best Is Yet To Come"
Judy Whitmore

Photo: Courtesy of Judy Whitmore

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ReImagined: Judy Whitmore Dazzles With A Classic Interpretation Of Frank Sinatra And Count Basie's "The Best Is Yet To Come"

Judy Whitmore introduces fans to the music she grew up with in this jazzy full-orchestra performance of "The Best is Yet to Come" — a song that was made famous by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, and won a GRAMMY thanks to Ella Fitzgerald.

GRAMMYs/Dec 6, 2022 - 06:00 pm

An American standard originally composed in 1959, "The Best is Yet to Come" has been recorded by an array of vocal greats, including Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, Bob Dylan, and Ella Fitzgerald — the latter of whom won a GRAMMY for her rendition in 1984. But it's most closely associated with Frank Sinatra, who recorded it with jazz pianist Count Basie for their 1964 album, It Might As Well Be Swing. In fact, the song was so important to Sinatra that its titular lyric is carved into his tombstone.

In this episode of ReImagined, vocalist and cabaret-style performer Judy Whitmore delivers a faithful, buoyant rendition of "The Best is Yet to Come." A full orchestra performs behind her, including horns, jazzy drums, a sweeping string section, and a grand piano — creating a swinging performance that does Sinatra proud.

Whitmore's cover choice is no coincidence, as the singer has been inspired by American classics literally since birth — her namesake is legendary actor and musical performer Judy Garland. Like Garland before her, Whitmore has taken on a diverse and multifaceted career. She's a bonafide Renaissance woman, whose resume includes accomplishments as a theater producer, best-selling author and pilot, who also happens to have a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

Singing has been a lifelong passion for Whitmore, and she has several albums to show for it, including 2020's Can't We Be Friends. That project, which includes her spin on standards like "'s Wonderful," "It Had to Be You" and "Love is Here to Stay," is Whitmore's "love letter to The Great American Songbook," her website explains

"This is the music I grew up with, and I don't want people to forget it," she details. "I think it's one of the most extraordinary bodies of work ever created."

Press play on the video above to watch Whitmore bring her love of American classics to her version of "The Best is Yet to Come," and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of ReImagined. 

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5 Takeaways From RM's New Solo Album 'Indigo'
RM performing at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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5 Takeaways From RM's New Solo Album 'Indigo'

BTS leader RM makes his official solo debut with his first studio album, 'Indigo,' which showcases a new level of artistry from the rapper.

GRAMMYs/Dec 5, 2022 - 08:03 pm

Like many of his BTS cohorts, RM has shown off his solo musical talents long before this year. His first mixtape RM came out in 2015, capturing the rapper's raw hip-hop roots. His second mixtape Mono was released to critical acclaim in 2018, when BTS were just scratching the surface of their worldwide domination. But this year took RM's solo efforts to the next level with his first-ever studio album, Indigo. 

Across 10 tracks, RM's official solo debut documents the multilingual rapper, producer and singer/songwriter's journey through his twenties. Meshing Korean and English, his reflections about life under the public eye weave through genres and moods organically. And with diverse collaborations — from R&B legend Erykah Badu to fellow South Korean star parkjiyoon — to boot, RM uses Indigo to bring fans deeper into his expansive musical universe.

Now that the highly anticipated project has finally arrived, take a look at five key takeaways from RM's debut studio album, Indigo.

It's Connected To The Art He Loves

RM is known for being a lover of nature and fine art, and that is reflected within Indigo. Promotional photos for the album featured Yun Hyong-Keun's painting "Blue"; RM is known to be a supporter of the late South Korean artist, so the rapper's inclusion of the work shows the intentionality behind his debut — musically and beyond. 

He isn't afraid to mesh artistic mediums, and the sonic and stylistic choices made reflect this. From then sampling Korean Hyong-Keun's reflection on Plato's humanity in the opening track "Yun" to even titling a song "Still Life," the inspiration is present. RM may have refined taste, but he makes it easily digestible through his music.

It's A Reflection Of His Life Up To Now

According to RM himself, Indigo serves as a diary of the last three years of his life. Even so, the album's messages can be a blueprint for anyone going through a transitional period in life, thanks to RM's honest, open-minded and unfiltered lyrics. 

On "Lonely," he candidly exudes his frustrations over a tropical beat. "I'm f—king lonely/ I'm alone on this island," he raps. He later sings, "So many memories are on the floor/ And now I hate the cities I don't belong/ Just wanna go back home." 

The contrast between the song's upbeat melody and longing lyrics provide a dichotomy that perfectly captures the highs and lows of fame. That's a theme that carries throughout the album, further showcasing why RM has become so admired by his fans and peers alike.

The Features Tell A Lot About His Artistry

Eight of the 10 tracks on Indigo are collaborations, all of which display RM's love of diverse genres and musical eras. They also reflect the caliber of artistry RM has reached — he got Erykah Badu! — as well as his ability to bridge the gap across borders. Along with Badu, he teamed up with two other R&B stars, Anderson .Paak and Mahalia, along with several Korean artists: Paul Blanco, Tablo, Kim Sawol, Colde, youjeen, and parkjiyoon. 

There's A Song For Everyone

Many praise RM for his ability to touch people with his leadership qualities and words, and this album may just be the strongest example of that. The project is noticeably more upbeat than Mono, but RM still takes time to break his emotions down lyrically. 

His first verse on the opening track "Yun" declares "F-k the trendsetter, I'ma turn back the time," setting the tone for how RM feels artistically. Then, the high-energy track "Still Life" with Anderson .Paak expresses joy and resilience, proving that one can still stand tall despite difficulty. As he says to .Paak on the track, "S— happens in life, but what happens is what happens."  

Overall, Indigo shows off RM's versatility in a much more impactful way than his previous mixtapes. This album is about the art of music, not breaking records or following trends. It feels like an exploratory culmination of various emotions, moods, and experiences, which helps each track feel relatable in a different way. 

There's A Lot To Look Forward To

RM displayed an immense maturity in his artistic expression through Indigo. He explores emotions both good and bad, but what remains throughout the entire project is a lingering feeling of hope for a better future. 

RM has always been a symbol of hope and grace as he has served as the spokesperson for his fellow members, both musically and in the public eye. But now, RM is getting to express himself for himself — and if Indigo is any indication, this is just the beginning of his journey inspiring the masses as a soloist.

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Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Juls' Must-Have Tour Item Is An African Instrument That Doubles As A Stress Reliever
Juls

Photo: Mahaneela Choudhury-Reid

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Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Juls' Must-Have Tour Item Is An African Instrument That Doubles As A Stress Reliever

The producer and DJ introduces fans to his kosh kash — a pocket-sized, egg-shaped instrument that is so versatile, he carries it with him everywhere when he's on the road.

GRAMMYs/Dec 5, 2022 - 06:59 pm

Juls — also known as Juls Baby, and born Julian Nicco-Annan — is perhaps known best for his work as a producer, helping create hits for acts like Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi and GoldLink. But the Ghanian-British producer and DJ is also a touring act who plays sets around the world — and he makes sure he has his trusty kosh kash with him.

In this episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, Juls introduces viewers to the egg-shaped African percussion instrument, which is also known as a Kashaka. The pocket-sized instrument is made up of two small gourds bound together by a string, and makes a rhythmic, rattling noise when shaken. It serves a lot of purposes, Juls explains.

"It's kind of like a shaker. It's kind of like a stress reliever when I'm preparing tours. It also helps me to make music," he says. "So any time I have an idea, I just record it on my phone in Voice Memos. I carry this everywhere I go when I travel."

Another mainstay of Juls' tour rider is "one of the best drinks in the world: Supermalt," the artist continues. "It's like a malt drink, made of wheat, with other things like added sugar and starch."

The non-alcoholic and caffeine-free malt beverage first originated in the early 1970s and served as a cheap energy source for the Nigerian Army. To this day, it's still an Afro-Caribbean staple — and now, a road necessity for Juls. "Definitely need to have that on the rider," he adds.

Press play on the video above to learn more about Juls' road essentials — plus how he prepares for his shows every night — and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas. 

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Positive Vibes Only: NewSpring Worship Share A Sweeping Message Of Faith With "Desde El Principio"
Charlee Buitrago of NewSpring Worship

Photo: Josh Chapmon

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Positive Vibes Only: NewSpring Worship Share A Sweeping Message Of Faith With "Desde El Principio"

Led by Venezuela-born vocalist Charlee Buitrago, NewSpring Worship shares their message of hope, faith and community in this sparkling live performance of "Desde El Principio."

GRAMMYs/Dec 4, 2022 - 06:10 pm

Since its inception more than two decades ago, NewSpring Worship has grown into a multicultural, multigenerational, musical expression of faith. Their name is a tribute to their beloved home base, the NewSpring Church, which has 14 different locations across South Carolina.

In this episode of Positive Vibes Only, NewSpring Worship deliver a soaring performance of their song, "Desde El Principio." Helmed by vocalist Charlee Buitrago — who also co-wrote the track — the bandmates take viewers through a simple, but powerful, rendition of the song. 

The clip begins with Buitrago singing in front of a simple white backdrop, and as the first verse progresses, the camera pans back to reveal two more musicians — one strumming an acoustic guitar, the other on the bench of a Rhodes electric piano.

With just those three artists in the frame, NewSpring Worship deliver a moving rendition of their song, which represents the faith collective's passion for putting out worship music that represents their own cultural diversity.

According to his website, Buitrago originally hails from Venezuela, but emigrated to the U.S. at age 17 after meeting an American missionary who helped him find his faith. Since then, Buitrago has continued to pursue both music and worship, with both himself and his native Spanish language becoming mainstays in the NewSpring Worship collective. 

Press play on the video above to watch this performance of "Desde El Principio," and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Positive Vibes Only.

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