Dolly Parton is one of the most revered and honored female country music singer-songwriters of all time. In addition to her prolific music career, she has also made a name for herself as a successful businessperson, philanthropist, and actress.
Dolly was the fourth of twelve children born in a one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. She grew up in a musical family and learned to sing church music and traditional ballads from her mother. Her family’s struggle to make ends meet fueled her desire to use music to improve her circumstances. She began her music career early, appearing on local radio and television shows in Knoxville, Tennessee, by age ten. Although Dolly moved to Nashville to pursue her musical dreams right after high school, many of her songs incorporate memories from her rural Appalachian childhood.
In 1967 she released her first album, Hello I’m Dolly, which included her first Top Forty hit, “Dumb Blonde,” a song that called out female stereotypes. She also began performing on The Porter Wagoner Show that year. Her first #1 hit, “Joshua,” was released in 1971. In 1973 she released My Tenessee Mountain Home, a concept album about her poor rural upbringing with a picture of her childhood home on the cover. In 1975 and 1976, Dolly was voted the Country Music Association’s (CMA) Female Vocalist of the Year, and she became the first female country artist to have an album go platinum with New Harvest … First Gathering, her first self-produced album, in 1977. That same year she released her first pop-country crossover album, Here You Come Again, for which she won her first Grammy (Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female). The following year the CMA named her Entertainer of the Year, an honor only seven women have received.
During her decades-long career, Dolly has had over 100 charted singles, 44 Top 10 country albums, and 26 singles at #1 on the Billboard country music charts; received 11 Grammy awards, 50 Grammy nominations, and 10 Country Music Association Awards; and written nearly 3,000 songs. In 1999 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2022 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has also been awarded the Library of Congress’s Living Legend medal, recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions to America’s cultural, scientific, and social heritage.
Dolly’s philanthropy is also widely recognized and celebrated, most especially the Dollywood Foundation and the huge impact of her Imagination Library, which has gifted over 200 million books to children from birth to age five in the United States and several other countries.