At 77 years old, Dolly Parton has this physical status:
In 1967, musician and country music entertainer Porter Wagoner invited Parton to join his organization, offering her a regular spot on his weekly syndicated television program The Porter Wagoner Show, and in his road show. As documented in her 1994 autobiography, initially, much of Wagoner's audience was unhappy that Norma Jean, the performer whom Parton had replaced, had left the show, and was reluctant to accept Parton (sometimes chanting loudly for Norma Jean from the audience). With Wagoner's assistance, however, Parton was eventually accepted. Wagoner convinced his label, RCA Victor, to sign her. RCA decided to protect their investment by releasing her first single as a duet with Wagoner. That song, a remake of Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind", released in late 1967, reached the country Top 10 in January 1968, launching a six-year streak of virtually uninterrupted Top 10 singles for the pair.
Parton's first solo single for RCA Victor, "Just Because I'm a Woman", was released in the summer of 1968 and was a moderate chart hit, reaching number 17. For the next two years, none of her solo efforts – even "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)", which later became a standard – were as successful as her duets with Wagoner. The duo was named Vocal Group of the Year in 1968 by the Country Music Association, but Parton's solo records were continually ignored. Wagoner had a significant financial stake in her future; as of 1969, he was her co-producer and owned nearly half of Owe-Par, the publishing company Parton had founded with Bill Owens.
By 1970, both Parton and Wagoner had grown frustrated by her lack of solo chart success. Wagoner persuaded Parton to record Jimmie Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues", a gimmick that worked. The record shot to number three, followed closely, in February 1971, by her first number-one single, "Joshua". For the next two years, she had numerous solo hits – including her signature song "Coat of Many Colors" (number four, 1971) – in addition to her duets. Top 20 singles included "The Right Combination" and "Burning the Midnight Oil" (both duets with Wagoner, 1971); "Lost Forever in Your Kiss" (with Wagoner), "Touch Your Woman" (1972), "My Tennessee Mountain Home" and "Travelin' Man" (1973).
Although her solo singles and the Wagoner duets were successful, her biggest hit of this period was "Jolene". Released in late 1973, it topped the country chart in February 1974 and reached the lower regions of the Hot 100 (it eventually also charted in the U.K., reaching number seven in 1976, representing Parton's first U.K. success). Parton, who had always envisioned a solo career, made the decision to leave Wagoner's organization; the pair performed their last duet concert in April 1974, and she stopped appearing on his TV show in mid-1974, although they remained affiliated. He helped produce her records through 1975. The pair continued to release duet albums, their final release being 1975's Say Forever You'll Be Mine.
In 1974, her song, "I Will Always Love You", written about her professional break from Wagoner, went to number one on the country chart. Around the same time, Elvis Presley indicated that he wanted to record the song. Parton was interested until Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, told her that it was standard procedure for the songwriter to sign over half of the publishing rights to any song recorded by Presley. Parton refused. That decision has been credited with helping to make her many millions of dollars in royalties from the song over the years. Parton had three solo singles reach number one on the country chart in 1974 ("Jolene", "I Will Always Love You" and "Love Is Like a Butterfly"), as well as the duet with Porter Wagoner, "Please Don't Stop Loving Me". In a 2019 episode of the Sky Arts music series Brian Johnson: A Life on the Road, Parton described finding old cassette tapes and realizing that she had composed both "Jolene" and "I Will Always Love You" in the same songwriting session, telling Johnson "Buddy, that was a good night." Parton again topped the singles chart in 1975 with "The Bargain Store".
Between 1974 and 1980 Parton had a series of country hits, with eight singles reaching number one. Her influence on pop culture is reflected by the many performers covering her songs, including mainstream and crossover artists such as Olivia Newton-John, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt.
Parton began to embark on a high-profile crossover campaign, attempting to aim her music in a more mainstream direction and increase her visibility outside of the confines of country music. In 1976, she began working closely with Sandy Gallin, who served as her personal manager for the next 25 years. With her 1976 album All I Can Do, which she co-produced with Porter Wagoner, Parton began taking more of an active role in production, and began specifically aiming her music in a more mainstream, pop direction. Her first entirely self-produced effort, New Harvest...First Gathering (1977), highlighted her pop sensibilities, both in terms of choice of songs – the album contained covers of the pop and R&B classics "My Girl" and "Higher and Higher" – and production. Though the album was well received and topped the U.S. country albums chart, neither it nor its single "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" made much of an impression on the pop charts.
After New Harvest's disappointing crossover performance, Parton turned to high-profile pop producer Gary Klein for her next album. The result, 1977's Here You Come Again, became her first million-seller, topping the country album chart and reaching number 20 on the pop chart. The Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil-penned title track topped the country singles chart, and became Parton's first Top 10 single on the pop chart (no. 3). A second single, the double A-sided "Two Doors Down"/"It's All Wrong, But It's All Right" topped the country chart and crossed over to the pop Top 20. For the remainder of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, many of her subsequent singles moved up on both charts simultaneously. Her albums during this period were developed specifically for pop-crossover success.
In 1978, Parton won a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her Here You Come Again album. She continued to have hits with "Heartbreaker" (1978), "Baby I'm Burning" (1979) and "You're the Only One" (1979) all of which charted in the pop Top 40 and topped the country chart. "Sweet Summer Lovin'" (1979) became the first Parton single in two years to not top the country chart (though it did reach the Top 10). During this period, her visibility continued to increase, with multiple television appearances. A highly publicized candid interview on a Barbara Walters Special in 1977 (timed to coincide with Here You Come Again's release) was followed by appearances in 1978 on Cher's ABC television special, and her own joint special with Carol Burnett on CBS, Dolly & Carol in Nashville.
Parton served as one of three co-hosts (along with Roy Clark and Glen Campbell) on the CBS special Fifty Years of Country Music. In 1979, Parton hosted the NBC special The Seventies: An Explosion of Country Music, performed live at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., and whose audience included President Jimmy Carter. Her commercial success grew in 1980, with three consecutive country chart number-one hits: the Donna Summer-written "Starting Over Again", "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You", and "9 to 5", which topped the country and pop charts in early 1981. She had another Top 10 single that year with "Making Plans", a single released from a 1980 album with Porter Wagoner, released as part of a lawsuit settlement between the pair.
The theme song to the 1980 feature film 9 to 5, in which she starred along with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, not only reached number one on the country chart – in February 1981 it reached number one on the pop and the adult-contemporary charts, giving her a triple number-one hit. Parton became one of the few female country singers to have a number-one single on the country and pop charts simultaneously. It also received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Her singles continued to appear consistently in the country Top 10. Between 1981 and 1985, she had twelve Top 10 hits; half of them hit number one. She continued to make inroads on the pop chart as well. A re-recorded version of "I Will Always Love You", from the feature film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) scraped the Top 50 that year and her duet with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream" (written by the Bee Gees and produced by Barry Gibb), spent two weeks at number one in 1983.
In the mid-1980s, her record sales were still relatively strong, with "Save the Last Dance for Me", "Downtown", "Tennessee Homesick Blues" (1984), "Real Love" (another duet with Kenny Rogers), "Don't Call It Love" (1985) and "Think About Love" (1986) all reaching the country Top 10 ("Tennessee Homesick Blues" and "Think About Love" reached number one; "Real Love" also reached number one on the country chart and became a modest crossover hit). However, RCA Records did not renew her contract after it expired in 1986, and she signed with Columbia Records in 1987.
Along with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, she released Trio (1987) to critical acclaim. The album revitalized Parton's music career, spending five weeks at number one on Billboard's Country Albums chart, and also reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart. It sold several million copies and produced four Top 10 country hits, including Phil Spector's "To Know Him Is to Love Him", which went to number one. Trio won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. After a further attempt at pop success with Rainbow (1987), including the single "The River Unbroken", it ended up a commercial let-down, causing Parton to focus on recording country material. White Limozeen (1989) produced two number one hits in "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That" and "Yellow Roses". Although Parton's career appeared to be revived, it was actually just a brief revival before contemporary country music came in the early 1990s and moved most veteran artists off the charts.
A duet with Ricky Van Shelton, "Rockin' Years" (1991) reached number one, though Parton's greatest commercial fortune of the decade came when Whitney Houston recorded "I Will Always Love You" for the soundtrack of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992). Both the single and the album were massively successful. Parton's soundtrack album from the 1992 film, Straight Talk, however, was less successful. But her 1993 album Slow Dancing with the Moon won critical acclaim and did well on the charts, reaching number four on the country albums chart, and number 16 on the Billboard 200 album chart. She recorded "The Day I Fall in Love" as a duet with James Ingram for the feature film Beethoven's 2nd (1993). The songwriters (Ingram, Carole Bayer Sager, and Clif Magness) were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Parton and Ingram performed the song at the awards telecast. Similar to her earlier collaborative album with Harris and Ronstadt, Parton released Honky Tonk Angels in the fall of 1993 with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. It was certified as a gold album by the Recording Industry Association of America and helped revive both Wynette and Lynn's careers. Also in 1994, Parton contributed the song "You Gotta Be My Baby" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization. A live acoustic album, Heartsongs: Live from Home, featuring stripped-down versions of some of her hits, as well as some traditional songs, was released in late 1994.
Parton's recorded music during the mid-to-late-1990s remained steady and somewhat eclectic. Her 1995 re-recording of "I Will Always Love You" (performed as a duet with Vince Gill), from her album Something Special won the Country Music Association's Vocal Event of the Year Award. The following year, Treasures, an album of covers of 1960s/70s hits was released, and featured a diverse collection of material, including songs by Mac Davis, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens, and Neil Young. Her recording of Stevens' "Peace Train" was later re-mixed and released as a dance single, reaching Billboard's dance singles chart. Her 1998 country-rock album Hungry Again was made up entirely of her own compositions. Although neither of the album's two singles, "(Why Don't More Women Sing) Honky Tonk Songs" and "Salt in my Tears", charted, videos for both songs received significant airplay on CMT. A second and more contemporary collaboration with Harris and Ronstadt, Trio II, was released in early 1999. Its cover of Neil Young's song "After the Gold Rush" won a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Parton also was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
Parton recorded a series of bluegrass-inspired albums, beginning with The Grass Is Blue (1999), winning a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album; and Little Sparrow (2001), with its cover of Collective Soul's "Shine" winning a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The third, Halos & Horns (2002) included a bluegrass version of the Led Zeppelin song "Stairway to Heaven". In 2005, she released Those Were The Days consisting of her interpretations of hits from the folk-rock era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, including "Imagine", "Where Do the Children Play?", "Crimson and Clover", and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
Parton earned her second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for "Travelin' Thru", which she wrote specifically for the feature film Transamerica. (2005) Due to the song's (and film's) acceptance of a transgender woman, Parton received death threats. She returned to number one on the country chart later in 2005 by lending her distinctive harmonies to the Brad Paisley ballad, "When I Get Where I'm Going". In September 2007, Parton released her first single from her own record company, Dolly Records, titled, "Better Get to Livin'", which eventually peaked at number 48 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. It was followed by the studio album Backwoods Barbie, which was released on February 26, 2008, and reached number two on the country chart. The album's debut at number 17 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart was the highest in her career. Backwoods Barbie produced four additional singles, including the title track, written as part of her score for 9 to 5: The Musical, an adaptation of her feature film. After the death of Michael Jackson, whom Parton knew personally, she released a video in which she somberly told of her feelings on Jackson and his death.
On October 27, 2009, Parton released a four-CD box set, Dolly, which featured 99 songs and spanned most of her career. She released her second live DVD and album, Live From London in October 2009, which was filmed during her sold-out 2008 concerts at London's The O2 Arena. On August 10, 2010, with longtime friend Billy Ray Cyrus, Parton released the album Brother Clyde. Parton is featured on "The Right Time", which she co-wrote with Cyrus and Morris Joseph Tancredi. On January 6, 2011, Parton announced that her new album would be titled Better Day. In February 2011, she announced that she would embark on the Better Day World Tour on July 17, 2011, with shows in northern Europe and the U.S. The album's lead-off single, "Together You and I", was released on May 23, 2011, and Better Day was released on June 28, 2011. In 2011, Parton voiced the character Dolly Gnome in the animated film Gnomeo & Juliet. On February 11, 2012, after the sudden death of Whitney Houston, Parton stated, "Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston. I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song, and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, 'Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed.'"
In 2013, Parton joined Lulu Roman for a re-recording of "I Will Always Love You" for Roman's album, At Last. In 2013, Parton and Kenny Rogers reunited for the title song of his album You Can't Make Old Friends. For their performance, they were nominated at the 2014 Grammy Awards for Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. In 2014, Parton embarked on the Blue Smoke World Tour in support of her 42nd studio album, Blue Smoke. The album was first released in Australia and New Zealand on January 31 to coincide with tour dates there in February, and reached the Top 10 in both countries. It was released in the United States on May 13, and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 chart, making it her first Top 10 album and her highest-charting solo album ever; it also reached the number two on the U.S. country chart. The album was released in Europe on June 9, and reached number two on the UK album chart. On June 29, 2014, Parton performed for the first time at the UK Glastonbury Festival performing songs such as "Jolene", "9 to 5" and "Coat of Many Colors" to a crowd of more than 180,000. On March 6, 2016, Parton announced that she would be embarking on a tour in support of her new album, Pure & Simple. The tour was one of Parton's biggest tours within the United States in more than 25 years. Sixty-four dates were planned in the United States and Canada, visiting the most requested markets missed on previous tours.
In the fall of 2016, she released "Jolene" as a single with the a cappella group Pentatonix and performed on The Voice with Pentatonix and Miley Cyrus in November 2016. Also in 2016, Parton was one of thirty artists to perform on "Forever Country", a mash-up of the songs, "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "On the Road Again" and her own "I Will Always Love You". The song celebrates fifty years of the CMA Awards. At the ceremony itself, Parton was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Lily Tomlin and preceded by a tribute featuring Jennifer Nettles, Pentatonix, Reba McEntire, Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride. In 2017, Parton appeared on Rainbow, the third studio album by Kesha performing a duet of "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You". The track had been co-written by Kesha's mother Pebe Sebert. It was previously a hit for Parton and was included on her 1980 album Dolly, Dolly, Dolly. She also co-wrote and provided featuring vocals on the song "Rainbowland" on Younger Now, the sixth album by her goddaughter Miley Cyrus.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Parton as one of the hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. In July 2019, Parton made an unannounced appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, and performed several songs accompanied by the Highwomen and Linda Perry. In 2020, Parton received worldwide attention after posting four pictures in which she showed how she would present herself on the social media platforms LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The original post on Instagram went viral after celebrities posted their own versions of the so-called Dolly Parton challenge on social media. On April 10, 2020, Parton re-released 93 songs from six of her classic albums. Little Sparrow, Halos & Horns, For God and Country, Better Day, Those Were The Days, and Live and Well are all available for online listening. On May 27, 2020, Parton released a brand new song called "When Life Is Good Again". This song was released to help keep the spirits up of those affected by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Parton also released a music video for "When Life Is Good Again" which premiered on Time 100 talks on May 28, 2020.
In August 2020, Parton announced plans to release her first holiday album in 30 years, A Holly Dolly Christmas, in October 2020. On December 6, CBS aired a Christmas special, "A Holly Dolly Christmas", where Parton performed songs from her album.
In addition to her performing appearances on The Porter Wagoner Show in the 1960s and into the 1970s, her two self-titled television variety shows in the 1970s and 1980s, and on American Idol in 2008 and other guest appearances, Parton has had television roles. In 1979, she received an Emmy award nomination as "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Variety Program" for her guest appearance in a Cher special. During the mid-1970s, Parton wanted to expand her audience base. Although her first attempt, the television variety show Dolly! (1976–77), had high ratings, it lasted only one season, with Parton requesting to be released from her contract because of the stress it was causing on her vocal cords (she later tried a second television variety show, also titled Dolly (1987–88); it too lasted only one season).
In her first feature film, Parton portrayed a secretary in a leading role with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the comedy film 9 to 5 (1980). The movie highlights discrimination against women in the workplace and created awareness of the National Association of Working Women (9–5). She received nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress. Parton wrote and recorded the film's title song. It received nominations for an Academy Award for Best Song and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Released as a single, the song won both the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and the Grammy Award for Best Country Song. It also reached no. 1 on the Hot 100 chart and it was no. 78 on the "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" list released by the American Film Institute in 2004. 9 to 5 became a major box office success, grossing over $3.9 million its opening weekend, and over $103 million worldwide. Parton was named Top Female Box Office Star by the Motion Picture Herald in both 1981 and 1982 due to the film's success.
In late 1981, Parton began filming her second film, the musical film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). The film earned her a second nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film was greeted with positive critical reviews and became a commercial success, earning over $69 million worldwide. After a two-year hiatus from films, Parton was teamed with Sylvester Stallone for Rhinestone (1984). A comedy film about a country music star's efforts to mould an unknown into a music sensation, the film was a critical and financial failure, making just over $21 million on a $28 million budget.
In 1989, Parton returned to film acting in Steel Magnolias (1989), based on the play of the same name by Robert Harling. The film was popular with critics and audiences, grossing over $95 million inside the U.S. She starred in the television movies A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986); Wild Texas Wind (1991); Unlikely Angel (1996), portraying an angel sent back to earth following a deadly car crash; and Blue Valley Songbird (1999), where her character lives through her music. Parton starred along with James Woods in Straight Talk (1992), which received mixed reviews, and grossed a mild $21 million at the box office.
Parton's 1987 variety show Dolly lasted only one season. She made a cameo appearance as herself in The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), an adaptation of the long-running TV sitcom of the same name (1962–71). Parton has done voice work for animation for television series, playing herself in Alvin and the Chipmunks (episode "Urban Chipmunk", 1983) and the character Katrina Eloise "Murph" Murphy (Ms. Frizzle's first cousin) in The Magic School Bus (episode "The Family Holiday Special", 1994). She also has guest-starred in several sitcoms, including a 1990 episode of Designing Women (episode "The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century") as herself, the guardian movie star of Charlene's baby. She made a guest appearance on Reba (episode "Reba's Rules of Real Estate") portraying a real-estate agency owner and on The Simpsons (episode "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday", 1999). She appeared as herself in 2000 on the Halloween episode of Bette Midler's short-lived sitcom Bette, and on episode 14 of Babes (produced by Sandollar Productions, Parton and Sandy Gallin's joint production company). She made cameo appearances on the Disney Channel as "Aunt Dolly", visiting Hannah and her family in fellow Tennessean and real-life goddaughter Miley Cyrus's series Hannah Montana (episodes "Good Golly, Miss Dolly", 2006, "I Will Always Loathe You", 2007, and "Kiss It All Goodbye", 2010). She was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.
Parton appeared as an overprotective mother in the comedy Frank McKlusky, C.I.. (2002) She made a cameo appearance in the comedy film Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, starring Sandra Bullock. She was featured in The Book Lady (2008), a documentary about her campaign for children's literacy. Parton expected to reprise her television role as Hannah's godmother in the musical comedy film Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009), but the character was omitted from the screenplay. She had a voice role in the comedy family film Gnomeo & Juliet (2011), a computer-animated film with garden gnomes about William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors, a made-for-TV film based on Parton's song of the same name, and featuring narration by Parton, aired on NBC in December 2015, with child actress Alyvia Alyn Lind portraying the young Parton. Parton also had a cameo in the sequel, which aired in November 2016. She co-starred with Queen Latifah in the musical film Joyful Noise (2012), playing a choir director's widow who joins forces with Latifah's character, a mother of two teens, to save a small Georgia town's gospel choir.
In June 2018, Parton announced an eight-part Netflix series, featuring her music career. She is its executive producer and co-star. The series, called Dolly Parton's Heartstrings, aired in November 2019.
Parton is the subject of the NPR podcast Dolly Parton's America. It is hosted by Jad Abumrad, who also hosts Radiolab.
In December 2019, the biographical documentary Here I Am was added to the catalog of the Netflix streaming service. The documentary, a co-production of Netflix and the BBC, takes its name from Parton's 1971 song.
In November 2020, Parton produced and starred in the Netflix musical film Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square, which won her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie.
In November 2021, Parton was confirmed to be appearing in the final season of Grace and Frankie in a guest-starring role, reuniting with her 9 to 5 co-stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.
In July 2022, Parton appeared as herself on sci-fi show The Orville in the episode "Midnight Blue".
Dolly Parton's list of achievements seemingly has no end. She's the recipient of 10 Grammys and the creator of the Imagination Library, which has provided over 200 million free books to children, and she even helped fund Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, to name just a few of her contributions. And now, we apparently have her to thank for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
In an interview on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Sarah Michelle Gellar revealed "Buffy" wouldn't have existed without Parton. "Little known fact, the legend Dolly Parton was a producer," Gellar said in the 31 Jan. episode, adding that she was starstruck by the country music legend throughout the show's entire run. "And you know, we never saw her. We'd get Christmas gifts in the beginning that would have our name and I would think, 'She doesn't know who I am.' And then one day somebody asked her about it and she complimented the show and my performance, and I was like 'Oh, I can die now. Dolly Parton knows who I am and thinks I'm good.'"