If you only know Dolly Parton as a 10-time Grammy-winning country music superstar behind hits like “Jolene” and “9 to 5,” well, you’d be right. But that sure ain’t the whole picture.
Parton, who turns 75 years young on Jan. 19, is actually a force of nature who has given back again and again over the years, sometimes in seriously surprising ways.
Here are just 8 reasons why we consider her a true national treasure.
1. She’s unafraid to speak her mind
Parton, who was born in Tennessee in 1946, has had so many great quotes we can hardly list them all here. (Although we’ve certainly tried.) But one of our favorites goes like this:
“I never think of myself as a star because, as somebody once said, ‘A star is nothing but a big ball of gas’ — and I don’t want to be that,” she told Billboard in 2014.
Fair enough, Dolly!
2. She helped fund a coronavirus vaccine
She’s a longtime philanthropist, too. In 2016, her Dollywood Foundation donated $1,000 per month to families impacted by wildfires in Tennessee. And last year, she donated $1 million to battle the coronavirus — a donation that’s paying off right now.
“I’m just happy that anything I do can help somebody else, and when I donated the money to the COVID fund, I just wanted it to do good,” she told TODAY last November. “Evidently, it is.”
3. She’s donated more than 100 million books to kids
Parton launched Imagination Library back in 1995, intending to give children in Tennessee free books each month. But the program took wing and today, Imagination Library is now one of the largest literary programs globally. They’ve distributed more than 100 million books to children, a tremendous gift that became the subject of a documentary in 2020 called “The Library that Dolly Built.”
In 2018, the Library of Congress honored her for the library.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is one of the most precious,” Parton said in a clip from the film.
4. Her ability to function at 3 a.m.
“I’m usually up by 3 o’clock,” she told TODAY in 2018. “I go to bed early, but I’m just an early bird.”
Parton gets a lot done while other folks are fast asleep and still finds time to cook a savory southern breakfast for her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, whom she married in 1966. (That’s him in the cute Instagram photo above from 2017.)
“I’m a very, very, very early riser,” she recently told Marie Claire magazine. “I go to bed pretty early, but I’m up and down. If I wake up and I’m pretty well awake, I think, I’ve got so much to do, I’ll get up and I’ll work a little while, write a little while, and I’ll lay back down.”
5. She turns up in the darnedest of places!
Who knew Dolly Parton was an uncredited executive producer on the 1997-2003 series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”?
And yet, it’s true! Sandollar Entertainment is a company Parton co-founded in 1986, and that company is a listed producer of “Buffy” (and also worked on the original 1992 film the series was based on). The film didn’t do well, but she kept TV series rights.
Don’t feel bad if this comes as a surprise: Many fans just found out last April. But it fits right in with the Dolly ethos: She’s everywhere, in one way or another.
6. She recently saved a child’s life
While filming the Netflix holiday special “Christmas on the Square,” Parton pulled a 9-year-old actor named Talia Hill out of the path of an oncoming vehicle.
“We were on set, and I was at the hot chocolate station, and they said go back to your beginning positions,” Hill told Inside Edition in December. “So there was a vehicle moving, and I was walking, and then somebody grabbed me and pulled me back, and I looked up and it was Dolly Parton.”
7. Parton is unabashedly herself
Throughout her career, Parton has dazzled us with her bling, her fringe, her big wigs and pure showbiz style, and we love her for it. (Someone has to support the glitter industry, people!)
But we also love seeing her not as jazzed up. In her new memoir, “Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business,” Parton shared a throwback photo of herself from 1965 with her natural hair in the recording studio (she also posted it on Instagram), and she looked just lovely and very at home.
“In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s my real hair,” she wrote in the book.
8. And, of course …. the music
For all of her amazing feats and accomplishments outside the industry, Parton is first and foremost a musician of exceptional caliber. She’s composed more than 5,000 songs (including one you can’t hear until 2045), received nearly 200 industry awards and sold more than 100 million records around the world. She truly is music to our ears.
Happy birthday, Dolly! Here’s to many more years of being truly wonderful.
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