5 Reasons I Love Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is my superhero.

With her trademark platinum-blonde hair, luminous smile and sweet songs, she could melt the coldest and most cynical of hearts.

As a 7-year-old girl growing up in the Midwest, I listened to her music on the radio and faithfully watched her variety show, Dolly. I loved her gentle soul and larger-than-life style. Soon, I was calling people “darlin’,” and wearing a pair of pink, cowgirl boots. (Yep. That was me–been throwing the ethnic curve since 1978.)

I adore everything about this photo.

There are many reasons why I think Dolly is an incredible woman. To date, the count is 1,022, but I’ve pared down my list to the top five:

#5: She’s a pioneer.
Don’t let her flamboyant façade fool you. Dolly Parton is a smart and fierce businesswoman. She decided to become a solo artist in the early ’70s when country music was a primarily male-driven industry. She’s made no apologies for being a woman, and writes songs that bravely share her feelings on love, insecurities, family, and hope. She’s one of many fearless steamrollers who helped paved the way for women in the music industry.

#4: She gives back.
There’s no doubt Dolly Parton is an icon, and she’s quick to use her success to help others. She created the “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library” which helps foster children’s literacy. It was established in her home state of Tennessee, and its influence quickly grew. Since its inception in 1996, her organization has donated more than 40 million books to children across the globe.

#3: Her songs. Oh, my, her songs…
Dolly’s written some of the most touching and powerful ballads in music history. Her most famous, “I Will Always Love You,” is pretty good at tearing your heart out, throwing it in a blender, and serving you an emo-smoothie. However, she also wrote one of the most complex and unorthodox love songs, “Jolene.” The lyrics were written to another woman whose guile has bewitched her man. It’s been covered by many artists spanning different genres, such as The White Stripes, Mumford and Sons, and Ellie Goulding. Seriously. The best:

#2: She’s an accomplished actress.
9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias. I rest my case. Haven’t watched them? Be prepared to laugh, and also have rivers of tears and mascara streaming down your cheeks until they’re chapped. Such a beautiful mess.

Oh, don't get me started on how much I love this movie...

#1: She’s nobody’s fool.
A lot of important lessons can be gleaned from Dolly’s life and career:

She’s unabashedly genuine. Her courage to be vulnerable is her strength. She’s brutally honest about herself, but doesn’t take the critics too seriously. She’s an eternal optimist who isn’t afraid to love deeply and share it with others. Plus, I love her Dolly-isms. They’re marked with her raucous sense of humor and wisdom.

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

“I was the first woman to burn my bra – it took the fire department four days to put it out.”

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

How could you not love this woman?

Until next time, darlin’. xox

Photo via

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513791729 Christina Konze

    I love Dolly, too! I was at work the other day, and my coworker was confused by one of Dolly’s Christmas songs on the radio, and was like, “Who is this?” I was like, “It’s the most wonderful Dolly Parton! Don’t you know?” And I had to explain the awesomeness of Dolly to her. Dolly Parton is such an inspiration to me. And umm, “9 to 5″ anyone? She was amazing!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1616119283 Sarah Neal

      Christina girl, thank you for spreading the Dolly love! “9 to 5.” The best, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1187112263 Jamie Justice Yost

    My favorite Dolly quote? “Keep singin’, honey. It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” LOVE me some Dolly!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=20711785 Sean Andres

    There’s nothing about Dolly I don’t love. She is the best. Her songwriting is simple, but it has a powerpunch of emotion to it. Her voice has changed over the years, but she knows how to use it, especially in harmonies, where you KNOW it’s Dolly and she delivers her harmonies in the most unique ways. No one does harmony like Dolly and Emmylou anymore. Gone are the days of the distinct voices in Country music. Whereas her was quiet and gentle in the 70s, it progressively grew stronger and louder as she became more comfortable with herself. My favorite albums are her bluegrass ones. I still sing “These Old Bones” until my voice gives out in the car. Her genuine, charitable, respectful nature is admirable and refreshing, and she loves everyone! I love that she’s a believer in equal rights, especially given her prominent role a pioneer in the entertainment industry. she’s created a multi-media empire, and I love it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1616119283 Sarah Neal

      Yes to all of this, Sean! Thanks for reading and sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174150645 Heather Nicole Burns

    I absolutely love her! And she gives back in so many ways. She’s employed so many people in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg with Dollywood. It’s one of my favorite places! I even made sure that was one of our stops on our honeymoon :) She’s so beautiful to boot! Plus her marriage is such an inspiration and her faith is so unwavering it makes the devil himself quiver in his boots.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1616119283 Sarah Neal

      She’s the best. Thanks for reading, Heather!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003121854027 Michael Lee Elmendorf II

    I always like when a new Dolly Parton CD comes out before Christmas, or my mom’s birthday. It becomes easy. The search is over in finding something for Mom. She loves country music, but only female artists. And for my mom Dolly seems to be in a higher category all to herself. But it is a bit awkward for me purchasing her CDs, along with my Nirvana, Ramones or Jack White –oh wait Jack Covered a Dolly song. Dolly = easy Mom Xmas gift. Ty

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1616119283 Sarah Neal

    Ha! I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, too, Michael. Those are great choices!

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