The Great Dolly Parton Love-in Part 2
A Country Christmas Story is on several times this Christmas week so we're all sitting around drinking mulled wine trying to out-do each other in how much we love Dolly Parton. Two differently spelled Donahues/Donoghues go head-to-head. Here's Part One.
I knew embarrassingly little about Dolly Parton until recently. Growing up, I knew she had blonde hair, liked sparkly dresses, sang a duet with Miss Piggy, and was very open about her large chest. Needless to say, as a wee babe, I thought she was fantastic.
But imagine how I felt when as I began the teen and 20-something struggle of figuring out who I was (a wannabe writer with a strange sense of humour) and I what I liked (writing about pop culture and making people laugh), only to realise Dolly was also the poster-woman for being oneself and embracing who she was.
On top of carving out a place for women in the country music industry, Dolly Parton built a career atop her uniqueness: she could write great songs, she could hit high notes, and she did it all wearing sequins. In the words of me, right now, she was an original BAMF. And if anyone dare speak otherwise, here’s why any Dolly haters can check themselves, thank you.
In the words of Ms. Parton, why’d you come in here lookin’ like that (anyway).
1. Dolly Parton has worked harder than we ever will or would ever want to
I don’t care if you listen to country or to hip-hop or to pop or to a single violinist playing for coins in the subway: Dolly Parton puts 98% of all other performers to shame. Hailing from a family of 12 (that’s five more children than the Von Trapps, so take that, Sound of Music), Dolly began performing at age nine, and began recording at 13. Do you know what this means? For the 67 years she’s been alive, Dolly Parton has been working for 58 of them. Correction: working in one of the toughest industries in the world for 58 of them. For half a century, plus eight. Do you know what I did today? I sat at my computer, and then I watched the dishes and I was proud of myself. So the next time we decide to do anything, we should ask ourselves: what would Dolly do? Then we do that, but without writing a hit song.
2. Dolly did it on her own (eventually)
As per Casey Wilson’s recent portrayal of Dolly Parton in Drunk History, it’s important to embrace the facts: shortly after the success of 1973’s “Jolene,” Dolly spread her wings and flew, leaving behind her manager/professional partner Porter Wagoner, for whom she wrote “I Will Always Love You.” And what happened then? Oh, only monumental success of the highest degree including: chart topping hits, a starring role in 9 to 5, and the DOLLYWOOD-FREAKING-THEME PARK. Did she have a team? Of course she did! Justin Bieber has an entourage for heaven’s sake (and he can’t even drink in the United States). But Dolly built hers from the ground up, in an era even more sexist than the one we’re in. (Believe it!) All while being Dolly: kind, smart, talented, and better-dressed then I will ever be.
3. Dolly Parton has never apologised for being Dolly Parton
Here is the number of times Dolly Parton has apologized for being Dolly Parton: Zero. Zero times. Dolly is happy to be Dolly, which should be a mandatory class for all burgeoning musicians (or humans) worried about being themselves. Not only that, but she keeps it real – actually. Exhibit A: “I’m not happy all the time, and I wouldn’t want to be because that would make me a shallow person.” Amen, girl. Do you know who’s happy all the time? Horrible TV and movie characters. And do you why they’re “horrible”? Because they actually all turn out to be robots, ultimately. Parton may not pride herself on being “natural” (“There’s no such thing as natural beauty”), but she can pride herself on being a human. I mean, how else would she be able to write “The Bargain Store.” (So real! So emotive! Be my friend, Dolly.)
4. Dolly is kind
There’s a difference between being “nice” and being “kind” and that difference is “sincerity.” When I worked in retail, I was “nice” to a lot of customers, including ones who threw boxer shorts at me and earned a shouted, “HAVE A GREAT DAY, SIR, THANKS” in return. That was “nice”. Kindness, however, is Dolly’s game. In addition to the Dollywood Foundation, she’s behind the literacy program, “Dolly’s Imagination Library,” and works to raise money for the American Red Cross and HIV/AIDS-related charities. In 2009, her speech at the University of Tennessee commencement was about encouraging graduates to “never stop dreaming”. Why? Well, Dolly never did – and now she’s a force of nature, music, and towering hair. Contrary to the Letters To Cleo song, it’s cool to be kind. Especially if you’ve got the power to actually change lives with that kindness. (Spoiler alert: we all do, even if it’s the power not to yell at somebody at your retail job.)
Unless you are the man who threw boxer shorts at me. If you’re reading this, buddy, that’s kind as I’ll get it.