Blonde bombshell, Dolly Parton, turns 71 this year and to celebrate we're looking back at Dolly's life and career.
Dolly Rebecca Parton was born in 1946 in Sevier County, Tennessee. She grew up "dirt poor," as she put it, one of a farmer's 12 children—all squeezed into a single-room cabin.
Parton: "We always made jokes and said we didn't even know we were poor 'til some smart aleck up and told us. ... We didn't have any money, but we were rich in things that money don't buy. You know, like love and kindness and understanding."
Dolly began her career young. After working in radio and television as a child, she recorded her first single, "Puppy Love," at the age of 13. "That record didn't do anything because it wasn't good at all, but it was a start," she said.
The day after she graduated from high school (the first in her family to do so), Parton moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. After getting her start in songwriting, she released her debut album, "Hello, I'm Dolly," in 1967. She was then 21.
Country star Porter Wagoner helped catapult Dolly to fame. After he discovered her in 1967. she was invited to appear regularly on his TV show and to tour with him. They recorded many duets during their seven-year collaboration.
Parton's eventual decision to venture out on her own, which sparked Wagoner's resentment, inspired her to write one of her best-known songs, "I Will Always Love You."
Her mother wasn't surprised by her success. "Momma saw it in me," Parton said. "She thought, 'Well, if anybody is gonna do what they say, it's gonna be her.' Because I was always very determined."
In 1966, Dolly married Carl Dean. They will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on May 30.
Parton's 1973 song "Jolene," a No. 1 hit on the country charts, was inspired by a red-headed bank teller who flirted with her husband. "She got this terrible crush on [him]," Parton said. "And he just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us—when I was saying, 'Hell, you're spending a lot of time at the bank. I don't believe we've got that kind of money.' So it's really an innocent song all around, but sounds like a dreadful one."
On her solo career: "There I was, just my guitar and me. It was the second of these that got me into trouble."
On taking the spotlight: "I have loved performing since I was big enough to wrestle my little brothers and sisters into sitting long enough for me to sing my latest musical masterpiece. I just hope y'all will come out and see this little girl from the hills of Tennessee walk out there on that big ole stage and make her dreams come true … don't make me wrestle you too … 'cause I will if I have to."
Parton, Linda Ronstadt (pictured with Dolly in 1978) and Emmylou Harris recorded two albums together—"Trio" and "Trio 2"—in 1987 and 1999. Last April, Parton said some of their unreleased material might soon be made available on a reissue.
She made her film debut in 1980's "9 to 5" alongside Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, who are now starring in the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie." Dolly said last year that she'd love to reunite with her former co-stars, though she hadn't seen their current show.
"Who's Grace and Frankie? ... Oh, you should of said 'Jane and Lily.' I told them whenever I get a little block of time, I'd love to come be on the show. We always talked about a reunion."
On glamour: "If I hadn't been a woman, I'd be a drag queen for sure. I like all that flair and I'd be dressing up in them high heels and putting on the big hair. I'd be like RuPaul."
Her part in 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" earned Parton a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. The film went on to become the most popular live-action musical of the decade.
"I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb. And I also know that I'm not blonde."
Shirley MacLaine, Dolly's co-star in 1989's "Steel Magnolias," recalled director Herbert Ross advising Parton to take acting lessons: "You don't say that to Dolly Parton!" said MacLaine, adding, "Dolly Parton is absolutely the funniest, wittiest and filthiest, and she will cut you to ribbons."
Parton remembered the incident as well: "He told me I couldn't act. This was not news to me, and I told him so. 'I'm not an actress, I'm Dolly Parton. I'm a personality who has been hired to do this movie. You're the director. It's your job to make me look like I'm acting.'"
"I hope to die right in the middle of a song and right on the stage doing what I love to do. I hope to be about 120 when that happens."
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