My love for Dolly Parton has always been there since I was a child; I have very fond memories singing “9 to 5” even though I had no idea what the lyrics meant or were about, all I knew was that it was a really catchy tune and I liked it. I was vaguely aware of the papers talking about the amount of plastic surgery and various enhancements Dolly had over the years but I guess I was really too young to understand what they were on about. In the purest sense from being a child at the time, all I knew was that she was a pretty lady and I liked the songs she sung, even if they were “Country & Western” songs (as they were known in the old days).
Then my love for Dolly took a bit of a back burner as I turned into an Indie Girl during my teenage years and into young adulthood. This coincided with a slight dip in Dolly’s popularity on mainstream stations until she went back to her Bluegrass roots with albums like “Little Sparrow” (which also was around the time that the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was released which *really* pushed Bluegrass music into the mainstream). If I’m to be honest, I’ll always be an Indie Girl at heart but even during these years, Dolly’s music was always there in the back of my mind, but never enough to manifest itself into anything more serious.
However, this all changed a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly what it was – I think it was from watching a documentary about Dolly which was followed by a live concert of hers. But after that, I listened to nothing *but* Dolly Parton songs for a whole month; I went through her entire discography over and over again, which let me tell you, is very extensive. From listening to live concert recordings, they not only showed what a great singer (and songwriter) she is, but also showed what a great personality she has; some of the retorts she had to hecklers/admirers have me laughing out loud every time (even when I’m on public transport which probably makes me look like a loon to other passengers). One of my favourites was from “Heartsongs: Live from Home” where some guy in the audience shouts out “LOVE YOU DOLLY!” only for her to retort: “I TOLD you to wait in truck!” When I saw her live, at one point in the show she was distracted by a loose hair and she had to stop what she was doing and pull the stray hair out. With a nice line in self-depreciation, she pulled the hair out and said to the audience: “Now, you’re probably wondering why that didn’t hurt…” much to the amusement of everyone and in full acknowledgement, Dolly continued: “Oh it didn’t hurt ME, but there’s probably some woman in Korea or wherever who felt that just then!”
Then there are all the “Dollyisms” which I absolutely adore; “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap” and “After momma gave birth to 12 of us kids, we put her up on a pedestal… it was mostly to keep daddy away from her” are amongst my favourites. I admire the fact that she came from a very poor family but has made a success of herself not just from being talented (she does compose a lot of her songs and is an accomplished guitarist – even with her acrylic nails) but also from being a very astute businesswoman – She has a very successful business empire incorporating her own theme park, (modestly named) Dollywood, which I would very much like to one day visit. She’s told the stories behind various songs and her background and upbringing countless times but she’s so down-to-earth, she has a captive audience every time – Even if you yourself have heard the store plenty of times. I love the fact that despite all her mega wealth, she’s still very humble and still comes across as very normal and completely level-headed; when she’s thanking you for all your support over the years, you can’t help but feel that she means it from the bottom of her heart (and bank balance!). A friend of mine told me about how Dolly likes to get in her RV with her husband and drive around on short holidays – Can you imagine Lady Gaga driving across the US in an RV?.
There are also Dolly’s philanthropic attributes which further warrant my respect for her; Dolly’s “Imagination Library” is a literacy project which aims to send a new book once every month for every child in the project from the time they enrol until they are old enough to go to nursery (or kindergarten). What’s more, the Imagination Library isn’t just in the US, it has expanded Worldwide and here in the UK to Rotherham (which delighted me to see Dolly on Breakfast TV worrying about pronouncing Rotherham correctly in her Tennessean twang).
I finally saw Dolly live for the first time recently and she was even more brilliant than I thought she would be. For all the talk of how much cosmetic surgery or botox she’s had, or how she doesn’t really resemble how she used to look anymore, let me tell you that she’s still got one hell of a voice. When I saw her on stage belting out each song, I didn’t care about how she looked these days when she still sounds so great. I somehow didn’t realise just *how* brilliant her voice is until I heard it live for myself. I had to admit, I thought that she was lip-sync’ing on her last tour from watching the DVD, but listening to the CD of the concert made me wonder if she really did sing live. It’s only from seeing her perform live that I can confirm that she well and truly does sing all the songs live. I realise now that after performing for over 40 years, Dolly doesn’t need an auto tuner and yes, her voice really is that powerful and smooth and I’m very happy and fortunate to have been able to experience it live.
I’m going to sign off now with a link to one of my favourite videos of her on You Tube. She’s singing “My Tennessee Mountain Home” which is one of my favourite songs of hers. What I love about this video is how even in 1973 when this video was filmed, she’s got the big blonde wig and too much make up, the long acrylic nails.. But she still plays the guitar and sings the song perfectly. Just her voice and the guitar; so simple, so very effective, so very Dolly Parton – And I *heart* her