January 19 is country music legend Dolly Parton’s birthday!
Parton was born in 1946 in Sevierville, Tennessee, and was one of 12 children born to tabacco farmer Robert Lee Parton and his wife, Avie Lee. Her childhood was spent on a rundown farm in the Great Smokey Mountains, and when she recounts stories of her family life, she describes their financial situation as “dirt poor.” Music played an important role in her life, even as a child, where her first exposure came from her mother singing to her, and the hymns they sang together in church. She was gifted her first guitar from a relative, and immediately began playing and writing her own music.
By age 10, Parton began performing on television and radio shows in eastern Tennessee, and made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry a mere three years later. She met musician Johnny Cash while performing at the Grand Ole Opry, and he encouraged her to follow her dreams of becoming a musician. In 1964, the day after she graduated from high school, Parton moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music.
She was first hired as a songwriter, but soon moved on to recording her own songs. Her first big break came in 1967 when Porter Wagoner invited her to partner with him on his show. In the following years, the duo recorded several number one hits and Parton was signed to RCA, where she began recording solo material. Her first solo number one hit was “Joshua” in 1971, and was soon followed by “Jolene” in 1973, and “I Will Always Love You,” which was written about her split from Wagoner, in 1974. After seven years of recording hits with Wagoner, Parton’s fame began to overshadow his, and she decided to break out on her own.
In 1975 and 1976, Parton won the Country Music Award for best female vocalist. She crossed over into pop music with 1977′s “Here You Come Again,” which topped country and pop charts and won the artist her first Grammy Award. She skyrocketed into mainstream fame in the 1980s when she also began her acting career. She starred in 9 to 5, which proved to be successful on many levels for Parton. For her role, she received a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy, and an Academy Award nomination for her original song for the movie “9 to 5.” Two years later, she received another Golden Globe nomination for her role in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and introduced a whole new generation to her hit song “I Will Always Love You.”
Aside from her music and acting career, Dolly has pursued many other ventures including the opening of her own theme park in 1986 called “Dollywood,” which is located in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. She has also put forth many efforts in helping with children’s literacy including her Imagination Library, Dixie Stampede, and Pirates Voyage.
In her career spanning over 40 years, Parton has paved the way for other female country musicians and has become the most honored female country performer of all time. Her long list of awards and achievements includes 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards, 25 number 1 Billboard Country hits, 41 top 10 country albums, and 110 charted songs. She has sold over 100 million records worldwide, earned 8 Grammy awards, 2 Academy Award nominations, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 5 Academy of Country Music Awards, 3 American Music Awards, and she is only one of five women to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and has composed over 3,000 songs in her lifetime.
Never giving up on her life’s work, Dolly performed across the world in 2011 on her Better Day World Tour, which grossed over $34 million. Dolly once said in an interview, “My music is what took me everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I will go. It’s my greatest love. I can’t abandon it. I’ll always keep making records.”