Seventy-one years ago today (Jan. 19) in Sevierville, Tenn., a beam of rhinestone light shone down as a Smoky Mountain angel was brought into the world. In other words, Dolly Parton was born. In honor of the country music queen’s birthday, here are just a few of the reasons we will always love her.
10. She’s trailblazer
Dolly recorded her first song, “Puppy Love,” at the age of 13 and moved to Nashville the day after she graduated from high school in 1964. Fifty years later, she’s sold 100 million albums and helped pave the way for countless women in country music.
9. She’s always herself
Honestly, if you were Dolly, why would you want to be anyone else? She’s known for her distinct, flashy style. It’s true that she would look incredible in any ensemble. But wearing, say, an amazing yellow bellbottom jumpsuit does require a certain level of confidence. Thankfully, Dolly has confidence for days. She wears what makes her feel fabulous and sings from her heart. From her songs to her style, Dolly calls the shots.
8. She’s never forgotten where she came from
Dolly’s upbringing in the Tennessee mountains made her the person she is. She grew up in poverty, or “dirt poor,” as Dolly would say. Ever since Dolly hit the big time, she’s been giving back to her community and surrounding areas in East Tennessee. In 1986, she opened Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The hugely popular theme park draws thousands of visitors, helping to boost the local economy. Dolly even takes part in the annual Dollywood parade each year.
7. She’s smart as heck
Dolly said it best when she said, “I’m not offended by the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb. I also know that I’m not blonde.”
There’s a reason she’s known as the Dolly Llama. She’s sweet, wise and as business savvy as she is talented. Case in point: she turned down Elvis Presley’s request to record “I Will Always Love You” because the King wanted half the publishing rights. Less than 20 years later, Whitney Houston had a smash hit with her cover of the song and the royalty checks are still rolling in. Smart move, Dolly.
6. She’s humble (and kind)
Dolly got her big break on The Porter Wagoner Show when she replaced then-fan favorite Norma Jean. Although they had their disagreements, Porter and Dolly were dear friends. Dolly famously wrote “I Will Always Love You” as her goodbye to Wagoner when she left the show after seven years on air. However, Wagoner wasn’t thrilled with Dolly striking out on her own. He sued Dolly for breach of contract. The two eventually settled out of court.
Though they were estranged for several years, Dolly and Porter later reconciled. She even helped out her old friend when he was in financial trouble, buying his entire songwriting catalog so that he could pay off his debt. When Porter contacted Dolly about repurchasing his songs, she returned ownership to him at no charge. Dolly knows lifelong friendships are more important than money.
5. She’s a killer duet partner
In addition to her duets with Porter Wagoner, Dolly has collaborated with numerous musicians over the years. Vince Gill, Julio Iglesias, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson and Brad Paisley are just a few of the artists she’s teamed up with. Of course, her most popular duet (and everyone’s favorite karaoke tune) is the Bee Gees-penned “Islands in the Stream” with Kenny Rogers.
4. She lights up the big screen (and the small)
In addition to her recording career, Dolly is a bona fide movie star. Everyone loves her turn as Doralee in 9 to 5 and sassy hairdresser Truvy in Steel Magnolias, but in the late 1980s Dolly also helmed her own short-lived variety show: Dolly. Needless to say, it’s amazing.
3. She keeps us laughing
If the music thing hadn’t have worked out for Dolly, she would have no trouble making it as a stand up comic. Her “Dollyisms” are equal parts funny and wise.
“I’ve tried every diet in the book,” Parton once said. “I tried some that weren’t in the book. I tried eating the book. It tasted better than most of the diets.”
2. She’s a book fairy…
Through her Imagination Library, Dolly provides free books to children from birth to five years old. Today over 1,600 communities are enrolled in the Imagination Library, sparking an early love of reading in over 1,000,000 children each month.
1. And a super hero
Dolly has a heart even bigger than her hair. When wildfires ravaged the east Tennessee region late last year, Dolly didn’t delay. She pledged to give $1,000 a month to every family displaced by the fire. Her star studded Smokey Mountains Rise telethon raised $9 million for families in need. Dolly’s kindness and generosity even inspired one woman to pen an open letter to the singer apologizing for not recognizing Parton’s awesomeness early. Thankfully, it’s never too late to start loving Dolly.