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, actress and businesswoman with over 3,000 songwriting credits to her name. The fourth of 12 children, Parton began singing in her childhood, working on Porter Wagoner's radio show. After a couple of singles on Monument Records, she was signed to RCA Records in 1968. 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. 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, including several philanthropic efforts and even her own theme park, Dollywood (which is in itself something of a philanthropic effort, bringing a large amount of money and jobs to the chronically poverty-stricken Appalachian region.)
Albums with their own page on TV Tropes
- Coat of Many Colors (1971)
Tropes present in her work:
- 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.
- Boarding School of Horrors: "Evening Shade"
- 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."
- Buxom Is Better: Early in her career, she was somewhat overweight, and while her outfits managed to conceal most of her fuller-figure, her bust size was so iconic that, once she lost the weight, she had implants to maintain it.
- Call-Back: The line "I couldn't hold a candle to the flaming beauty that caught his eye" in "Heartbreak Express" could be a nod to both "Jolene" and "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle To You".
- 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".
- 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.
- Drag Queen: Dolly has stated before that were she born a man, she has no doubt she would be a drag queen. She's also a huge supporter of any queens who lip sync her in their act.
- Dumb Blonde: "I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes, because I know I'm not dumb. And I'm not blonde." ("Dumb Blonde" was also the title of Parton's first hit, from 1967.)
- 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.
- Happily Married: Still with her first husband since 1966. He's an extremely private person and has even reportedly only ever attended one of her shows, which has naturally led to rumors that their relationship is troubled, but she's always maintained they're perfectly happy.
- 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.
- 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: "Here You Come Again" is a bright, bouncy song about how much it sucks to be in a Relationship Revolving Door with a manipulative Casanova.
- 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.
- The One Who Made It Out: "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)" is narrated by one.
- Pep-Talk Song: Several, with "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" as the standout.
- Reality Is Unrealistic / Your Costume Needs Work: She once lost a Dolly Parton lookalike contest, and even better, the other competitors were Drag Queens. She says that they probably thought she was a gay midget since she was so much shorter than the rest of them.
- She once joked that it "costs a lot of money to look this cheap."
- 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: Is perfectly willing to joke about her appearance and her breast size.
- "Sesame Street" Cred:
- Stylistic Suck: Essentially what her signature looks boils down to. She even once told Anderson Cooper that she specifically based it on a woman of ill repute who she knew growing up.
- Title-Only Chorus: "I Will Always Love You".
- 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 single titled "Everything's Beautiful (In It's Own Way)."
- We Used to Be Friends: Parton and Porter Wagoner didn't speak to each other for many years after she ended their professional partnership in 1974, but they reconciled and she did a tribute concert to him after he died in 2007.
- Your Cheating Heart:
- "Jolene," a rare instance of the song being from the point of view of the person about to be cuckolded.
- "Daddy" is from the point of view of the grown daughter of the cheater, whose mistress is younger than her.