Though she began her multi-faceted career in country music, Dolly Parton’s talent has transcended a singular genre to make her a global superstar. Known for her work in music, television and film, Dolly has become one of the entertainment industry’s most beloved and respected icons with a career that spans more than 50 years. Her list of achievements is staggering. She’s earned 25 RIAA-certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards, and has had 25 songs reach No. 1 on the “Billboard” country charts. The prolific singer-songwriter has 41 top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and during the past 40 years, she has notched a jaw-dropping 110 chart singles.
Born Jan. 19, 1946 in rural Sevier County, Tennessee, Dolly grew up in a poor, but loving family. Her childhood was chronicled in two television movies “Coat of Many Colors” in 2015 and “Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” the following year. Dolly began performing on local radio shows when she was just a child, and the day after she graduated from high school, she moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. She initially found success as a songwriter, having her songs recorded by Skeeter Davis, Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr. At 19, she signed a deal with Monument Records and released her debut album “Hello, I’m Dolly.” Her first single, “Dumb Blonde,” peaked at No. 24 on the chart and the follow-up, “Something Fishy,” made it to No. 17.
Porter Wagoner recruited her to be the featured female singer on his popular TV and road show, and the duo scored such hits as “The Last Thing on My Mind,” “Making Plans” and “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me.” Dolly signed with RCA Records and, in February of 1971, scored her first solo No. 1 hit with “Joshua.” Thus began a streak of hits that included “Coat of Many Colors,” “My Tennessee Mountain Home” and “Jolene.”
In 1974, Dolly struck out on her own, leaving Porter’s organization. She penned the classic “I Will Always Love You” about their professional breakup, and the song became a No. 1 hit for Dolly. Years later it enjoyed a revival, becoming a No. 1 smash for Whitney Houston when it was featured in the film “The Bodyguard.”
During the ’70s and ’80s, Dolly continued to have country hits and also found crossover success with such songs as “Here You Come Again,” “Two Doors Down” and “9 to 5,” which became a triple chart-topper, hitting No. 1 on the country, pop and adult contemporary charts and earning Dolly an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. In 1980, she expanded her resume to include acting when she starred with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the film version of “9 to 5.” Over the years, she’s starred in numerous other movies, including “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Joyful Noise” and many others.
The Country Music Hall of Fame member’s career has included forays into bluegrass music, with such acclaimed album as “The Grass is Blue” and “Little Sparrow,” and in 2017, she released her first children’s album, “I Believe in You.” Widely known to be a savvy businesswoman, Dolly runs her record label, Dolly Records, her own music publishing companies and her theme park in East Tennessee, Dollywood, among other businesses.
A noted philanthropist, Dolly is founder of the Imagination Library, which provides free books to children under the age of five to encourage literacy. But despite her many awards and accolades, one of Dolly’s proudest accomplishments is being married to her husband Carl Dean for more than 50 years. The couple met at the Wishy Washy Laundromat when she first moved to Nashville and married in Ringgold, Georgia, on May 30, 1966.