Fifty years ago on February 13, 1967, a smiling 21-year-old from the Tennessee backwaters released her debut album. ‘Hello, I’m Dolly’ announced the glorious arrival of Dolly Rebecca Parton to the world. A ferocious talent who grew up in dire poverty alongside her 11 siblings in a tiny two-room shack, she became – and remains – a powerful entertainment force, as well as a quietly but subversively political one.
Sure, there are the 43 albums, seven Grammys, global record sales of over 100 million, stints as an actress and author and even her own theme park, but she’s also an LGBTQ icon and renowned philanthropist, putting money back into her beloved community and endorsing a whole host of charitable causes. Her theme park, Dollywood, isn’t just a hillbilly Alton Towers; it was built to bring industry to the area she grew up in and create jobs in one of the poorest parts of the United States. Her Imagination Library project has helped to promote child literacy since 1995 by giving over a million free books to kids across the world.
She’s often to be found calmly dishing out wisdom as well as her regular boob and barnet jokes, like last year when she spoke out against the transgender bathroom ban with grace and humour. “I don’t judge people and I try not to get too caught up in the controversy of things,” she said. “I hope that everybody gets a chance to be who and what they are. I just know if I have to pee, I’m gon’ pee, wherever it’s got to be.” Quite.
With a heart as big as her ’hive, Parton has achieved greatness through hard work, decency and warmth, unlike another American currently making headlines. She might have sung about being a ‘Dumb Blonde’ half a century ago on that debut album, but now there’s a new peroxide bimbo on the scene. Both Dolly Parton and Donald Trump were born in 1946, but apart from their age and a shared taste in hair dye, they couldn’t be more different. Parton is accepting, open and kind, where Trump is prejudiced, shut off and mean. In fact, Dolly Parton is just the kind of woman who should be in charge of America right now. Imagine how great that would be – think of the excessive public use of glitter, the mandatory cowboy boots and the love and respect that would shine out of the States.
Although Dolly didn’t publicly endorse any political candidate for the 2016 US election (in fact, she said “I think they’re both nuts” of Trump and Clinton), she did comment: “I personally think a woman would do a great job.” Well, so do we – especially
if her name was Dolly.