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In the Spotlight with Dolly Parton

​Courtesy of Webster

Courtesy of Webster

As 2016 draws to a close, Dolly Parton wraps up a most well-rounded and career-defining year. Between releasing her newest No.1-charting record, Pure & Simple, embarking on her most extensive North American tour to date, and re-issuing a new and improved Trio album with long-time collaborators, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, Parton continues to add to her steadily-growing list of accomplishments. Most recently, the performer accepted the 2016 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement award, bestowed upon only the most exemplary in the country music scene.

“I really have accomplished a lot of things in my life and I’m proud of every one of them,” Parton’s voice trembles with candor. “It’s such an honor to be recognized and appreciated for what I always wanted to do. I’ve known Willie since we both came to Nashville in the early ‘60s. We used to sit out in the same building, write songs for the same publishing company, and record for the same label. He’s one of the sweetest, most generous people I know, in addition to being one of the greatest songwriters of all time, so I was honored to get that award from him.”

On the horizon for the month of December remains the final leg of Parton’s Pure & Simple tour, during which the singer is expected to thrill audiences at a string of intimate venues along the Southern US.

“It just kinda came out of an accidental, honest place,” Parton remarks on the toned-down nature of the shows. “People seem to be enjoying it and it seems to work in larger arenas as well as the very intimate places, which I’m surprised and happy about.”

Admittedly, a year teeming with recognition and professional success for the country legend has nonetheless presented its share of challenges, ranging from a tense US Presidential election to the recent Tennessee wildfires that ravaged both her hometown of Sevier County and her family-themed amusement park, Dollywood, situated in nearby Pigeon Forge. The devastation hits the performer-turned-entrepreneur particularly hard, having established and successfully run her Dollywood business ventures for 30 years and counting.

“I always thought if I ever got in a position and did well enough, that [unveiling the park would be a wonderful way to provide jobs for people in my area,” Parton comments on the matter. “I had some apprehension with some of my lawyers and some of my business people; they thought I was making a mistake, but I still went on with it and it makes me feel good that I was right about it. It’s all for family.”

To aid with relief and recovery efforts, Parton has since established the My People fund, aimed at providing $6,000 over the span of 6 months to victims displaced by the fires.

“I love my people,” she continues. “I love my homeland. It gives me a lot of pride to be able to go back home and do something great.”

While embracing her country roots offers a much-needed solace and levity in today’s volatile climate, focusing on future endeavors serves as her own way of effecting positive change. Aside from her involvements with music, Parton tackles both the literary arts and the issue of childhood literacy through her nonprofit organization, Imagination Library.

“It came from a very pure place in my life and in my heart,” she remarks on the foundation’s efforts to promote early childhood literacy by providing children with free books from birth through to the start of their schooling. “A lot of my own relatives weren't able to get an education. My daddy couldn't read and write. As smart as he was, he never got a chance to get an education. I saw what a crippling thing that was to him and how hard he thought it would be to learn to read as a grown man, so that's what inspired me. I got my Dad involved in helping me with that and he got to live long enough to see it all come to be and to hear the little kids call me 'The Book Lady.’ I take pride in putting books in the hands of children, 'cause if you can learn to read, you can self-educate yourself if you can't afford to go to school.”

As Parton charts out her endeavors for the upcoming year, her determination to tread uncharted territory grows all the more.

“I’ve got a lot of plans [to play some parts and produce some things for TV and some movies],” she exclaims, “possibly have a line of make-up and some clothes down the line, too. I’ve got dreams all the time that I’d like to come true while I’m still living and I’m living it to the fullest!”


Credits: Dolly Parton, Kirt Webster, Caitlin DeForest, Scott Adkins

© Veronika Tacheva, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. Do not reprint without permission.

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