Dolly Parton

Active - 1972 - 2021  |   Born - Jan 19, 1946 in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, United States  |   Genres - Music, Comedy, Romance, Drama

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Born January 19th 1946, Dolly Parton has risen from relative poverty to become one of the most famous and wealthy country music stars in the world. Easily recognizable for her flamboyant platinum blonde wigs, vivid makeup, petite physique, and extra-large breasts -- which figure prominently in her humorous on-stage remarks -- Parton has shown a real knack for marketing herself in creative, lucrative ways that belie the downhome mannerisms and apple pie sweetness of her public persona. Parton's ventures range from a songwriting career,a semi-successful crossover to pop music, a sporadic acting career, a 100-million-dollar company, Dolly Parton Enterprises, and her ultimate self-promotion, the Dollywood musical theme park in Tennessee, which has become so popular since it's opening in 1986 that in 1997, it was largely responsible for the closing of its only rival, Opryland.

Parton's singing career began with television appearances in Knoxville at age 12. The following year she had a recording contract and was appearing at the Grand Ole Opry and at age 21, she had her first hit song, "Dumb Blonde" (1967). It was, however, Porter Wagoner who made her a star when he hired her to duet with him. Together, they toured the country, made records, and appeared numerous times at the Opry. She went solo in 1974 and soon had a string of hits, including the semi-autobiographical "Coat of Many Colors." During the '70s, Parton was a favorite on talk shows and music specials. In 1980, she made her acting debut opposite Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dabney Coleman in the hit revenge comedy 9 to 5. As in most of her subsequent acting endeavors, Parton essentially played herself. She wrote and performed the film's title song and earned an Oscar nomination. She has since continued composing and singing in her films. Parton offered one of her best acting performances as a big-hearted beautician in Steel Magnolias (1989).

Parton would continue to selectively revisit the realm of acting over the coming years, appearing in Frank McKlusky, C.I. and Joyful Noise, as well as on TV shows like Hannah Montana.

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  • Born in a one-room cabin in Tennessee; she was the fourth of 12 children.
  • By age 10, she was performing on local radio and TV shows in Knoxville, TN.
  • Cowrote her earliest recorded song, "Puppy Love," which was released when she was still in her teens.
  • Came to fame when Porter Wagoner began featuring her on his popular syndicated TV show in 1967.
  • Ranked by Billboard Magazine as the No. 1 female country artist of all time.
  • Wrote the song "I Will Always Love You," which topped music charts on three separate occasions: her recordings in 1973 and 1982; and Whitney Houston's recording in 1992.
  • Opened Dollywood theme park in 1986.
  • Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and the National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001; received the Library of Congress Living Legend Award in 2004; awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2005; was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
  • Famously said of her distinctive appearance: "It takes a lot of money to make a person look this cheap."