Date of Birth: 10 January 1946
Age: 77 years old
Zodiac sign: Capricorn
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, 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, which led to success during the remainder of the 1960s (both as a solo artist and with a series of duet albums with Porter Wagoner), before 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. She has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
Parton's music includes 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 44 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 11 Grammy Awards and 50 nominations, including the Lifetime Achievement Award; ten Country Music Association Awards, including Entertainer of the Year and is one of only seven female artists to win the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year Award; five Academy of Country Music Awards, also including Entertainer of the Year; four People's Choice Awards; and three American Music Awards.
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 in a select group 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).
Outside of her work in the music industry, she also co-owns The Dollywood Company, which manages a number of entertainment venues, including the Dollywood theme park, the Splash Country water park, and a number of dinner theatre venues including The Dolly Parton Stampede and Pirates Voyage. She has founded a number of charitable and philanthropic organizations, the chief among which is the Dollywood Foundation, which manages a number of projects to bring education and poverty relief to East Tennessee where she grew up.
Early life and career
Dolly Rebecca Parton was born January 19, 1946, in a one-room cabin on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in Pittman Center, Tennessee. She is the fourth of twelve children born to Avie Lee Caroline (née Owens; 1923–2003) and Robert Lee Parton Sr. (1921–2000). As of 2021, Parton has three deceased siblings. Parton's middle name comes from her maternal great-great-grandmother Rebecca (Dunn) Whitted. Parton's father, known as "Lee", worked in the mountains of East Tennessee, first as a sharecropper and later tending his own small tobacco farm and acreage. He also worked construction jobs to supplement the farm's small income. Despite her father's illiteracy, Parton has often commented that he was one of the smartest people she had ever known in regards to business and making a profit.
Parton's mother, Avie Lee, cared for their large family. Her 11 pregnancies (the tenth being twins) in 20 years made her a mother of 12 by age 35. Parton credits her musical abilities to her mother; often in poor health, she still managed to keep house and entertain her children with Smoky Mountain folklore and ancient ballads. Avie Lee's family were originally from Wales and they sang the old songs of the immigrants who had moved to southern Appalachia over a century earlier. Avie Lee's father, Jake Owens, was a Pentecostal preacher, and Parton and her siblings all attended church regularly. Parton has long credited her father for her business savvy, and her mother's family for her musical abilities. When Parton was a small girl, her family moved from the Pittman Center area to a farm up on nearby Locust Ridge. Most of her cherished memories of youth happened there. Today, a replica of the Locust Ridge cabin resides at Parton's namesake theme park Dollywood. The farm acreage and surrounding woodland inspired her to write the song "My Tennessee Mountain Home" in the 1970s. Years after the farm was sold, Parton bought it back in the late 1980s. Her brother Bobby helped with building restoration and new construction.
Parton has described her family as being "dirt poor". Parton's father paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of cornmeal. She outlined her family's poverty in her early songs "Coat of Many Colors" and "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)". For six or seven years, Parton and her family lived in their rustic, one-bedroom cabin on their small subsistence farm on Locust Ridge. This was a predominately Pentecostal area located north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains. Music played an important role in her early life. She was brought up in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), in a congregation her grandfather, Jake Robert Owens, pastored. Her earliest public performances were in the church, beginning at age six. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar. When she was eight, her uncle bought her first real guitar.
Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area. By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At 13, she was recording (the single "Puppy Love") on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her own instincts regarding her career.
After graduating from Sevier County High School in 1964, Parton moved to Nashville the next day. Her initial success came as a songwriter, having signed with Combine Publishing shortly after her arrival; with her frequent songwriting partner, her uncle Bill Owens, she wrote several charting singles during this time, including two Top 10 hits: Bill Phillips's "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" (1966) and Skeeter Davis's "Fuel to the Flame" (1967). Her songs were recorded by many other artists during this period, including Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr. She signed with Monument Records in 1965, at age 19; she initially was pitched as a bubblegum pop singer. She released a string of singles, but the only one that charted, "Happy, Happy Birthday Baby", did not crack the Billboard Hot 100. Although she expressed a desire to record country material, Monument resisted, thinking her unique, high soprano voice was not suited to the genre.
After her composition "Put It Off Until Tomorrow", as recorded by Bill Phillips (with Parton, uncredited, on harmony), went to number six on the country chart in 1966, the label relented and allowed her to record country. Her first country single, "Dumb Blonde" (composed by Curly Putman, one of the few songs during this era that she recorded but did not write), reached number 24 on the country chart in 1967, followed by "Something Fishy", which went to number 17. The two songs appeared on her first full-length album, Hello, I'm Dolly.
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