What a way to make a livin,
Barely gettin' by,
It's all takin' and no givin'
They just use your mind,
And they never give you credit,
It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it."
Dolly Rebecca Parton (born January 19, 1946) is a Country Music singer-songwriter, actor, and businesswoman with over 3,000 songwriting credits to her name. The fourth of 12 children, Parton began singing in her childhood, and recorded a few songs that gained some regional attention in the South. She signed with Monument Records in 1965, where she released a handful of singles. Popular Country star Porter Wagoner was impressed with her, and hired her as the featured female vocalist on his syndicated TV show in 1967. Wagoner also got her a contract with his longtime label RCA Records, both as a solo artist and as Wagoner's duet partner. A few modest hits came in the next couple of years, followed by the Number One "Joshua" in 1970. She stayed with RCA through the 1970s and into the 1980s, then switched to Columbia Records and stayed there until 1995. In her career, Parton charted 25 Number One singles, counting two different versions of her Signature Song "I Will Always Love You". Also included in her total is a duet with Brad Paisley, "When I Get Where I'm Going", which in early 2006 made Parton the oldest female artist to chart a Number One country song. Of course, Parton has earned several awards just for her music, including seven Grammy Awards. Her songs "9 to 5" and "Travelin' Thru" were both nominated for Academy Awards.
But her career is far more than just singing. Parton has starred in the movies 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, both of which earned her Golden Globe nominations, as well as the beloved heart-tugger Steel Magnolias. She has also starred in several television series, mostly in cameo or performing roles.
Parton is known for her campy, big-breasted image, as well as joking about her large amounts of plastic surgery. But underneath it all, she has a really big...heart. Her list of philanthropic efforts is longer than she is tall, and includes HIV/AIDS charities, wildlife conservation, large donations to both Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center of Nashville, childhood education, and her literacy campaign "Dolly Parton's Imagination Library," which gives children a book per month absolutely free of charge from birth until their first day of school. After wildfires left many in the Smoky Mountain region homeless, Dolly created the My People Fund, which not only helped to relocate families but provided them a cash stipend every month until they were back on their feet. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, she donated one million dollars toward vaccine research, an effort that was later directly credited with accelerating the vaccine's public rollout. Even her theme park, Dollywood, is something of a philanthropic effort, bringing a large amount of money and jobs to the chronically poverty-stricken Appalachian region—and this is just the stuff she's let us know about; allegedly she makes a hobby of reaching out anonymously to assist individuals in hard times. She is also surprisingly progressive for a woman of her background, openly joking about the transphobic reaction to gender-identifying bathroom laws and other southerners' general conservatism, sharing her love and appreciation for her large LGBTQ+ fandom, and expressing support for Black Lives Matter.
Albums with their own page on TV Tropes
- Coat of Many Colors (1971)
Her music and performances provides examples of the following tropes:
- Animal Metaphor: One of her big early hits was "Love Is Like a Butterfly". The butterfly has gone on to be an ongoing motif in her career, even featured in the Dollywood logo.
- Answer Song: A surprising number of these for "Jolene":
- Kirsty MacColl's "Caroline" is an answer song in which Jolene mourns the loss of her friendship with Caroline after an ill-advised affair with Caroline's husband.
- Jennifer Nettles wrote "That Girl," which she calls "a spiritual successor to 'Jolene'". In it, Jolene has no interest in Parton's man and in fact warns Parton's character that her husband is untrue.
- In Cam's "Diane," Jolene had no idea that she was having an affair with a married man and feels likewise betrayed, offering an apology to Parton's character (the titular Diane).
- A similar song, titled "Jolene's Song," by David Rotheray and Julie Murphy portrays a heartbroken Jolene who learns that the man she loves is married and that she has become "the other woman."
- "You Can Have Him Jolene" by Chapel Hart has the "other woman" asking Jolene to take her man back now that she's found someone better.
- In the rare male example, indie band Ewert and the Two Dragons released a song also called "Jolene" in which the husband orders Jolene to leave him alone as he has no interest in anyone but his wife.
- Boarding School of Horrors: In "Evening Shade", the narrator and other attendees of the boarding school hatch a plan to burn down said boarding school after having enough of Mrs. Bailey's poor treatment of them.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the video for "Romeo", Dolly expresses amazement that the young stud would fall for her when there are so many younger women in the room. "But after all, it's only right," she adds with a wink to the viewer. "I am paying for this video."
- Clingy Jealous Girl: The narrator of "Potential New Boyfriend", even though, as the title indicates, she barely knows the guy.
- Common Meter: The verses to "Yellow Roses" are common meter double.
- Cool Old Lady: In her seventies and still actively performing, getting involved in causes and has shown to be very adept at social media.
- Cover Album: The Great Pretender; Treasures; and Those Were The Days. Also Dolly, Dolly, Dolly, her only regular-issue studio album that didn't include any songs written by her.
- Cover Version: A fairly good bluegrass version of Collective Soul's "Shine", for one.
- Defiled Forever: In "Just Because I'm A Woman" this attitude is examined with much scorn. Truth in Television; it was written in response to Dolly's husband getting upset when she admitted he wasn't the first man she'd slept with.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Twice over in "Evening Shade": the cruel headmistress of a reform school savagely beats a student for bedwetting. The other students retaliate by burning down the building while the headmistress is inside asleep.
- Don't Call Me "Sir": Parton is well known for her humble attitude.
- When her hometown wanted to honor her with a statue, she politely thanked them but asked them to spend the money on something for the people.
- In 2022, when she was up for nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she politely declined on the ground she did not consider herself a rock star, much less in comparison to the other nominees.
- Dumb Blonde: "Dumb Blonde" is the title of Parton's first hit from 1967. In addition, in Real Life Parton is fond of noting that people often dismiss her as a dumb blonde, responding, "I know I'm not dumb...and I'm not a blonde."
- Early Installment Weirdness: Her first singles, recorded when she was 13, cast her as a Poor Man's Substitute for Brenda Lee. When she signed with Monument Records in 1965 her producer Ray Stevens felt she was better suited for pop than country (even though she was already making a name for herself in Nashville as a songwriter). After a handful of singles with a mid-1960s girl group sound she begged to be allowed to switch to country and the label finally agreed. (Ironic, in that almost exactly a decade later she began courting a pop audience.)
- Everything Is an Instrument: Parton clicked her fingernails together rhythmically on "9 to 5" to simulate the sound of a Rhythm Typewriter.
- Excited Show Title!: Her 1976 weekly variety show Dolly!, and the albums An Evening With...Dolly Live! and Sha-Kon-O-Hey! Land of Blue Smoke.
- The Film of the Song:
- Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors, a 2015 made-for-TV film that did well enough in the ratings that NBC made a multi-film deal with Parton. One of the future projects is a "Jolene" film. There's also Jolene, a 2008 film starring Jessica Chastain based on an E.L. Doctorow short story that was loosely inspired by the song.
- This is the entire concept of Dolly Partons Heartstrings, an anthology show on Netflix where all episodes are inspired by Dolly's songs.
- The Hermit: The title character of "Joshua", who becomes a Loner-Turned-Friend.
- "I Am" Song: "Backwoods Barbie", written for 9 to 5: The Musical and recorded by Dolly herself.
- I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Due to her passionate stage chemistry with Kenny Rogers, it was long-rumored that they were having an affair. Decades later, both admitted that while they shared an initial attraction, neither of them wanted to spoil their close friendship (or their mutual marriages).
- Lighter and Softer: Her early albums featured a number of surprisingly dark ballads ("The Bridge", "Jeannie's Afraid of The Dark", "Evening Shade", "Daddy Come and Get Me", "Down From Dover"). With the success of the upbeat "Joshua" and the heartfelt "Coat of Many Colors" in 1971, she gradually shifted her songs in those directions.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: "Romeo" had Mary Chapin Carpenter, Pam Tillis, Kathy Mattea, Tanya Tucker, and Billy Ray Cyrus on it. It was credited to "Dolly Parton and Friends" on the charts.
- New Sound Album: New Harvest...First Gathering (1976) marked her first attempt to appeal to a mainstream audience, and the follow-up Here You Come Again had a full-blown pop crossover sound.
- No Ending: "The Bridge" ends abruptly because the narrator kills herself.
- Pep-Talk Song: "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" as the standout:It's been a long dark night
And I've been a waitin' for the morning
It's been a long hard fight
But I see a brand new day a dawning
I've been looking for the sunshine
You know I ain't seen it in so long
But everything's gonna work out just fine
And everything's gonna be all right
That's been all wrong
- Re-release the Song: She re-released "I Will Always Love You" in 1982, eight years after the original. Both versions went to #1 on the country charts, making it the only country song to top the charts twice for the same artist. She cut it a third time in 1995 with Vince Gill and, although it was never officially released as a single, it went to #15. Whitney Houston's cover is still the more famous version, and Dolly herself loved it.
- Self-Deprecation: Dolly has shown many times that she is more than happy to make jokes at her own expense, such as quipping "I was the first woman to burn my bra - it took the fire department four days to put it out" or her famous quote that "it costs a lot of money to look this cheap".
- "Sesame Street" Cred:
- Title-Only Chorus: The chorus to "I Will Always Love You" is just that phrase sung twice.
- Vocal Tag Team: She recorded two Trio albums with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt which featured this: each song had only one of the three singing lead and the other two harmonizing.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: In 1982, she released a duet with Willie Nelson titled "Everything's Beautiful (In It's Own Way)." (Obviously, this should be "its").
- Working Class Anthem: "9 to 5" is basically an ode about thankless dead end jobs: