Dolly Parton turned 77 on Thursday.
It’s hard to believe, especially if you saw Parton rocking it out with her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus, at her televised New Year’s Eve party. Though Parton has been a performer for more than 60 years, she’s still as popular as ever.
How does Parton continue to wow fans year after year?
“Dolly is so popular today because she has become more than a singer/songwriter,” said Ted Miller, vice chair of the Dollywood Foundation. “While she has earned a place in history for being multitalented, she is truly loved for her kind and true heart.”
But her kind heart is just one of her endearing qualities. In honor of her 77th birthday, here are seven reasons people adore Parton:
1. She’s a talented singer. Ten-year-old Parton battled stage fright, but that didn’t stop her from singing her heart out on her first radio show. Since then, she’s performed around the world and recorded hundreds of songs, dozens of them award winners. Millions of people enjoy listening to her voice on the radio and streaming devices.
2. She’s a gifted songwriter. Parton has written Grammy-winning hits such as “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You,” “9 to 5” and more. In all, she’s composed about 3,000 songs. How is that possible? “Dolly has new song ideas all the time, like when she’s cooking, or traveling in her bus, and even in the bathtub,” said Lydia Hamessley, music professor at Hamilton College in New York and author of “Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton.” “She keeps paper and a pen in every room to jot down new lyrics, and she sings her melodies into a cassette tape recorder.”
3. She’s a hard worker. A bundle of endless energy, Parton rises at 3 each morning and works long days. She gives her best to every performance and project, which has led to great relationships and much success.
4. She’s generous. In honor of her father, who could not read or write, Parton founded her Imagination Library, which has gifted more than 197 million books to children. She donated $1 million to fund research for a coronavirus vaccine. She also cares for the poverty-stricken area in Tennessee where she grew up by providing scholarships, education programs and money for families in need.
5. She’s a successful business executive. In addition to being an owner of the Dollywood amusement park, which opened in 1986, Parton has struck business deals with Netflix, kitchen supplies store Williams-Sonoma (for guitar-shaped cookie cutters), baking brand Duncan Hines (Southern banana cake) and other companies.
6. She’s an authentic individual. Parton is comfortable with herself. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is or wear what she likes: sparkly clothes and sky-high heels. Her fans adore her honesty and genuine kindness.
7. She’s an inspiring role model. Growing up, her family was poor. Parton dreamed of being a singing star but could not afford voice lessons or even a guitar. So she made her own guitar from an old mandolin and rusty piano strings, and performed on the porch for her siblings (and a few pigs). Maybe her persistence inspires you to pursue your dreams.
Slade is the author of 150 children’s books. Her newest is the picture book “Dazzlin’ Dolly: The Songwriting, Hit-Singing, Guitar-Picking Dolly Parton.”
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