Happy birthday, Dolly Parton! A fan spells out why you’re awesome

Dolly Parton Knoxville TN 2014Dolly Parton performing in Knoxville, 5/28/14; Photo credit: Taken by me

Happy birthday, Dolly Rebecca Parton!

Over the years I have become a great fan of Dolly. She is a talented singer and songwriter, but that is not the reason I love her. I love her because of her FACE. Not her face–though she is quite lovely–but her F.A.C.E. Allow me to spin a Dolly-style yarn to explain.

I’ve never met Ms. Parton (but if her representatives feel inclined to set something up, I would clear my schedule for it), so my opinions are based on what I’ve observed while seeing her perform, what I’ve read and what I’ve learned while traveling to eastern Tennessee. But, I like to believe she’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of gal. It’d be hard to keep in character throughout nearly 50 years in the entertainment business, don’t you think?

F is for…

  • Fearless – The day after she graduated high school, she got on a bus with her guitar, a few clothes, a little bit of money and some big dreams. She was moving to Nashville to be a star. That takes a whole lot of guts.
  • Feminist – Though I don’t recall her coming right out and saying it, Dolly’s a feminist. But, listen to her song lyrics, read her autobiography and observe how she lives her life on her terms. Dolly has always been a woman who knows what she wants to achieve and sees no reason why she can’t achieve it. Don’t believe me? This post on the Feminist Times website, Dolly Parton: A Radical in Rhinestones spells it out pretty throughly.
  • Family and friends are important – At every opportunity, Dolly is quick to share how friends and family members help her continue to pursue her dreams and expresses love and gratitude for them. And she is loyal to them, even if they don’t always agree with her. I’d love to ask Judy Ogle, Dolly’s assistant and friend since the third grade, about some of their disagreements.

A is for…

  • Aspiration – From a very young age, Dolly had dreams of wearing pretty, new clothes (being from a poor family with 11 other siblings, you tend to wear a lot of hand-me-down clothes) and singing before an audience.  She had the opportunity to sing on a local radio show at 10 and never looked back. While she was still in school, she made trips to Nashville with her Uncle Billy, performing when she could and trying to find someone to introduce her to her big break. Eventually their hard work earned her the opportunity to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage and a deal to do a demo record. That first shot didn’t lead to great stardom, but it was a great learning opportunity and fostered her work ethic. She never gave up. She knew stardom had to happen to someone, so why not her?
  • Ability – Not only is gifted singer, she is a talented and prolific songwriter (I couldn’t find hard numbers on her songwriting catalog, but a quick BMI search turned up nearly 700 titles). Other artists easily recognize her talent and many have covered her famous tunes. She remains relevant to artists today with Jack White and Dave Grohl being a couple of notable examples.
  • Attitude – Dolly has a positive attitude, is quick to show gratitude and give credit to others for how they have helped her. She’s funny and self-deprecating, too. I dare you to watch this interview Dolly did for ABC News and not smile at least once.

C is for…

  • Confident – She likes her look, doesn’t care if it meets “mainstream” standards. She’s okay being an individual, and she wants you to be, too. As she writes in the prologue to her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business: “I think it’s a big mistake to try to pattern yourself too much after anybody else. We are all individuals. Just like snowflakes, no two of us are alike, and that, to me, is the beauty of it.”
  • Control – Despite her shucks-I’m-just-a-poor-girl-from-Tennessee-who-likes-to-look-pretty-and-sing persona, there’s a big brain under Dolly’s wig. She’s a savvy businesswoman–people thought she was crazy for her Dollywood idea (which has been going strong since 1986)–and keeps tight control of her image and her song catalog.
  • Caring – Over the years, Dolly has supported many philanthropic causes, especially those that promote the welfare of her eastern Tennessee community. One that is particularly close to her heart, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, is an organization she founded to promote literacy by giving books to preschool-aged children. To date, they’ve given out over 60 million books. She also has been the honorary chairperson of the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation working to bring quality health care to Sevier County for more than 30 years.

E is for…

  • Entertainer – From the time she performed for the chickens in backyard, Dolly has known how to put on a show. Her concerts still sell out all over the world. She was a hit at the Glastonbury Festival this past year. After having the blessing to see her perform in person, I know that this woman knows how to keep a crowd on their feet and leave them wanting more.
  • Enthusiastic and full of energy – She’s got a pile of money in the bank; she could just go back to her Tennessee Mountain Home and just kick back and relax. But, she doesn’t. She’s still enthusiastic about her music career, her business ventures and busy thinking up new dreams to pursue. Her most recent dream brought to life–Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort–is opening this summer and it was recently reported that Dolly signed a movie development deal with NBC for a series of movies based on her songs and life.

I wish that “face” was spelled with an “I” because I would add introvert to the list. After learning of the social causes Dolly supports, hearing about her empathy for others who feel like an outsider and how she chooses to spend her down time–hanging out at home with her husband and family, reading, writing, praying/meditating–I believe Ms. Parton is a fellow introvert. I’d wager she views her glitz and glamour as the uniform she puts on to get her into the game. The game of doing what she loves most: performing music and bringing joy into the world.

Happy birthday, Dolly.