Many have asked when I was going to feature Dolly Parton, well, today is the day. But as I write and as you read this, it will feel a bit different than others. With Dolly, it's not just about hit songs, number ones, top tens, or any other number. It's about the sum of everything she did, does, will do, and the trail she blazed for many others to follow. When you add it up, it becomes clear, we may never see anyone with her resume ever again. I have proudly played her music on great radio stations all around the country.
Early Solo Success
Recording artist, actor of stage and screen, businessperson, songwriter, entrepreneur, performer, TV star, cultural icon, incredible supporter of charity and good causes, and immensely likable. She is all of these things. In short, Dolly is a national treasure. She has recorded about every kind of music there is, with about everyone that you can record with. She began recording very young with no success at all. Then at last, it all changed with then country superstar, Porter Wagoner on this TV show and with his traveling concerts in 1968. Wagoner was a very big star in the 1960's and this was quite a gig. She replaced a popular co-star named Norma Jean who left the show, and Dolly was not received well at first. Things changed.
This Song Changed Many Things (Not The Original - But Fun To See Her Sing It)
Dolly recorded many duets with Wagoner and was gaining great favor within country music. Her duets were doing well, but her singles were not. So in 1973 it was decided she would branch out on her own, and leave Wagoner's show. Many people don't know her written song, I Will Always Love You, (Yes, that song) was written about leaving Wagoner as a thank you to him. That song was a huge hit for her and of course Whitney Houston and others. Elvis wanted to record it before Dolly, but Parton refused and kept it for herself. That song has paid so many dividends in so many ways over many decades, it's almost immeasurable. Her run on the country charts going forward was huge, with big songs like Jolene, and dozens of others. I call that 1970's Dolly. Her music and image were of the era.
This Brought Her Mainstream
As popular as she was, 1977 and 1978 were very big years for her. Her album, Here You Come Again, introduced her to the pop audience and she was received very well. The title song and many others propelled her to a whole new level of stardom by a mile. I firmly believe that Here You Come Again, Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Crystal Gayle and Barbara Mandrell's, If Lovin' You Is Wrong, all released in that small window of time to country and pop radio was a major factor in spawning the Urban Cowboy phase. Country music was now newly seen as "cool" as were the people singing it thanks in part to those songs. (Read - Three Big Songs, Three Great Women) . They really helped introduce us to a whole new audience. Over the next few years, Dolly would find great pop and country success, and made her way to the stage and movies. Dolly was mainstream now.
Movie Success - BIG!
Her success continued through the 1980's in every way possible. The incredible Trio album with Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris was a huge favorite and restarted her musical career in a newer direction. Trio is one of the greatest albums and musical events of the 1980's as those three put together an sensational album. Dolly went on to record countless duets and projects with about every kind of singer there is. I call that 1980's Dolly.
Huge, Huge Song - Working with The Bee Gees And Kenny Rogers
She was in the movies as well, with 9 To 5, Rhinestone, Steel Magnolias, Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, and countless Hallmark type of movies and TV specials. She had her own TV show on ABC for a couple of years as they rebooted the classic TV variety show. The debut ratings set all-time TV records, but over time declined and the show was cancelled.
Example Of 80's Pop - Country #1
She bought a small park called Silver Dollar City in 1986, and renamed it Dollywood amusement park, when many people said that was a bad idea, turned out she was right again. Dollywood is still going strong today, near the place of her raising in Tennessee. Dolly Parton is tough to label. She has literally done everything that can be done, and she has done it all very well. She is an amazing woman in every realm of her life and career.
The Trio Album - Was An Incredible Project And Success
But to me, Dolly as a performer her strength was her songwriting. I feel, she is one of the best country songwriters of the 20th century. I feel she's in the same breath as Hank Williams Sr., and many of the other giants of our format. The amount of incredible songs she wrote is simply mind blowing. Also her absolute willingness to be 100% vulnerable and brutally honest in her songs and music without question endeared her to millions of fans. Many of her songs are sung from the underdog perspective, and I always felt that was a great move, as it made her very real. Her music has been used in every way possible. She also has been a beyond amazing role model and major influence to hundreds of country star women, and men. Keith Urban has stated many times she was his introduction to country music growing up in Australia.
A Very Underrated Dolly Song
She also has been incredibly benevolent to meaningful causes for many years. She is a giant in that regard. She is also the kind of star that just doesn't exist much anymore and that's too bad. Much like say, Willie Nelson, they are far beyond country stars. Dolly, like Willie, is just a part of our lives, our society, our nation. They are icons, and we take for granted they will always be here, and each generation seems to love her more for new and different reasons. Many today have never heard, Jolene, or Coat Of Many Colors, or seen 9 to 5, but they know who Dolly is. Dolly over the decades has remained relevant by changing with the times and adapting to newer societal environments. She has done it as well as anyone ever. In short, she paid attention and has never gotten old.
This Is So Fun - Dolly And Porter - Breeze Detergent TV Commercial
They know Whitney Houston's, I Will Always Love You, but don't know that was a Dolly song that went number one a few times before Whitney ever recorded it. But they know Dolly. Dolly Parton is a gem of a performer in our format, in other formats and many different types of media. But she is an even better person, and most of us are better people for having her in our lives. We should be proud of Dolly, she is a true American success story.
Always LOVED This Song
Dolly Rebecca Parton. She is as big and as good as Mega Stars can get.