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Parton, Dolly (19th January 1946-Present)

She is a singer-songwriter, composer, actress and author born Dolly Rebecca Parton in Sevierville, Tennessee, as the fourth of twelve children in a poor family.  Her family lived in a cabin with just one room in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, and it was in her childhood here that she would begin to experience music in her weekly church visits.

At the same time she would appear on East Tennessee radio and TV programs, and by the time she was 13 she had started her recording career on the Goldband label and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry.

Moving to Nashville when she was 18 she began songwriting and wrote hits for Skeeter David and Hank Williams Jr.  She signed up as a recording artist in 1965 when she joined Monument Records and recorded the pop single “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby” which, although termed a “national chart single” did not enter the Billboard Top 100 and it was after several releases and Bill Philips’ No. 6 hit “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” which she wrote and sang harmonies for, that the company agreed to let her start singing country in 1966.

She charted with her first two country singles, “Dumb Blonde” and “Something Fishy” and this led the way to her first album release Hello I’m Dolly.  In 1967 she signed up to the RCA Victor record label and made her first appearance on Porter Wagoner’s weekly country music TV program.  Her collaboration with Wagoner saw them achieving many chart successes as a duo over the next seven years, where they would also appear in the Grand Old Opry to audiences that would include visitors such as Sir Paul McCartney and his family.

Alongside working in a duet, she still carried on her solo career and in 1974 she reached No. 1 with her hugely successful “I Will Always Love You” which she had written for Porter Wagoner when they went their separate ways.  This song would be successfully recorded by many others over the course of the years but she refused Elvis Presley the right to record it when she was approached by him, as Col. Tom Parker had insisted that Presley be credited to it too so he could get half the publishing rights.

Her career as a singer reached a high point in the 1970s where she would top the pop charts and country charts with songs such as “Here You Come Again”.  This would continue through into the 1980s where she would often record songs written by other songwriters as she was finding it more difficult to find the time for everything.   In 1987 the ten-year project of making an album with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt came to bear and resulted in the album Trio, which would top the country album charts, produced four Top 10 hits and be nominated for a Grammy Award.

Twelve years later in 1999 the follow up, Trio II would be released and also be a Grammy nomination.  Another collaboration with Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn in 1993 would result in Honky Tonk Angels, although this did not see the same success.

Into the 2000s she concentrated on bluegrass and released two Grammy Award albums, The Grass is Blue and Little Sparrow and in 2005 recorded the album Those Were the Days where she concentrated on past folk-rock hits by other artists such as Cat Stevens, John Lennon and Mary Hopkin.

Her songwriting career has been one of the most successful in the country music industry, with over 600 songs to her credit, including the acclaimed “Jolene”, “9 to 5”, “Islands in the Stream” and “Coat of Many Colors”.

In the 1970s she began acting and after having her own variety show on the television she began to move into the film industry, when Jane Fonda suggested her for a role in 9 to 5. This was a huge success, which saw her winning Golden Globes for Best Actress and Best Original Song, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, two Grammy Awards and No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  She would follow this with several other movie appearances including Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone and Steel Magnolias, but none that reached heights of 9 to 5.  She still acts to this day and is also heard on several animations such as Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Magic School Bus.

At 5’2″ and known for her much talked about hourglass figure she is often dubbed the “Iron Butterfly” for her business acumen.  She has always kept her roots foremost and invested much of her back earnings into East Tennessee in projects and companies such as Pigeon Hole which is where Dollywood is situated and Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.  She is also the co-owner of the successful TV company Sandollar Productions, which has produced the movies Father of the Bride, Sabrina and Straight Talk and the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Returning to concert touring in the 2000s she appeared in 36 Canadian and American stadium venues in 2004, a further 40 cities in the US in 2005 and Europe in 2007.  Taking all her achievements into consideration she is deemed possibly the most-honoured country female artist in history with 25 RIAA awards, 26 No. 1 hits, 41 Top 10 albums, 100 charted singles and sales in excess of 100 million.  In music awards she has received 42 Grammy nominations, winning 7, 42 Country Music Award nominations, winning 10, 39 Academy of Country Music Association nominations, winning 7, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Nashville Star Walk and is one of five country music female artists to be named “Entertainer of the Year”.  She was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1969, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986, the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001 and has a plaque on the Wembley Square of Fame in London.

Aside from all of this she has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Carson-Newman College, the Living Legend medal, a Kennedy Center Award for lifetime contributions to the arts, had a tribute album recorded in her honor, been ranked No. 4 in the CMT “40 Greatest Women of Country Music”.   Even in science she has been recognised when the world’s first cloned sheep was named Dolly after her.  Recognised for her works in charity she has helped numerous good causes for children, AIDS sufferers, health care, animals and bringing local business to depressed areas.

Keeping her private life very much that way she has been married to Carl Dean since 1966, who stays out of the limelight running his asphalt-paving business.  Although they have had none of their own children they brought up several of Dolly’s young siblings and Dolly is the godmother of Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter, Miley.

Linda Ronstadt recordings
I Never Will Marry (Fred Hellerman)