Dolly Parton was born January 19, 1946 which means she turned sixty-nine this week. Unbelievable. From the time she became famous when she teamed up with Porter Wagoner on his television show in 1967, Dolly has been a permanent presence in the musical minds of the Baby Boomer generation in this country and around the globe. She is the definition of a legend in her own time; a woman who for the past fifty years has been a songwriter, entertainer, musician, singer, actor, business entrepreneur and philanthropist. She has received more awards and honors than she can shake a stick at and is a bona fide survivor of the vicissitudes of life, as my daddy used to say when he described transitional life events that had no apparent rhyme or reason.
She was born in Sevier County, Tennessee and was the fourth of twelve children in a family that was, in her words, “dirt poor.” Her story is the classic American dream that offers a pot of gold to the pilgrim brave enough to travel through a kaleidoscope of colors in a very long rainbow that requires dedication, persistence and talent to reach the end.
She has sung duets with a multitude of singers including Linda Rondstadt, EmmyLou Harris, Queen Latifah, Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers, Chet Atkins – but not Elvis Presley who she refused to let cover her “I Will Always Love You” because he wanted half the publishing rights. Whoa, Dolly…no duet with Elvis, but along came Whitney Houston and Bodyguard and Dolly will always love that business decision.
Good business decisions allowed her to establish the Dollywood Foundation which has a subsidiary called the Imagination Library that distributes one book per month to children who are enrolled in the program from their birth to kindergarten. According to Wikipedia, this is an average of 700,000 books monthly across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Her commitment to literacy is a fraction of an amazing legacy.
I saw Dolly Parton in person many years ago when she was touring with Kenny Rogers and their hit “Islands in the Stream,” and she was all I hoped she’d be. She was funny, full of herself – but connected to her audience and sang her heart out. So many songs of hers are favorites, but the Number One Hit on my personal Billboard goes to “Eagle when She Flies.” It’s an oldie, but a goodie.
She’s been there, God knows she’s been there
She has seen and done it all…
She’s a sparrow when she’s broken
But she’s an eagle when she flies.
YouTube videos of Dolly’s songs are everywhere, but this one is too good…
A belated happy birthday wish to you, Miss Dolly…you’re an eagle in my eyes.