Born on Jan. 19, 1946, in Locust Ridge, Tenn., into a poor family that would eventually include 12 children, Dolly Parton learned early to escape the hardships of life through her vivid and far-ranging imagination. Before she learned to read and write, she was "making up" her own songs. She got her first guitar when she was 8 and began singing on a Knoxville, Tenn., radio station at age 11. That same year, she made her first recording on Gold Band Records, a tiny independent label. She made a name for herself locally while still in high school, but she dreamed of a bigger stage. The day after she graduated in 1964, she moved to thumb|300px|right|Dolly Parton - Together You and INashville.
Her first charting records on Monument Records included "Dumb Blonde" and "Something Fishy," both in 1967. At about this time, Porter Wagoner was looking for a new "girl singer" for his syndicated television show. Parton accepted the job in 1967, signed with RCA Records in 1968 and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1969. However, she left Wagoner's show in 1974, as her solo releases -- such as "Joshua," "Coat of Many Colors" and "Jolene" -- were out-charting their collaborations. After their split, Parton wrote the song "I Will Always Love You" for Wagoner, and it reached No. 1 for the first time in 1974.
As a solo artist, Parton also snared the CMA's female vocalist award in 1975 and 1976 and won the entertainer trophy in 1978. Still, her TV variety series lasted only one season, in 1976. Her musical style grew closer to pop music, but fans responded as "Here You Come Again" spent five weeks at No. 1 in 1978.
She also grew more interested in movies, starring in 1980's 9 to 5 -- the title song earned her an Oscar nomination -- and 1982's Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Taken from the Whorehouse soundtrack, "I Will Always Love You" reached No. 1 again in 1982. A Bee Gees-written duet with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream," topped the country charts in 1983.
Parton returned to her acoustic roots when she recorded the 1987 landmark album Trio with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Four of its singles reached the Top 10, and "To Know Him Is To Love Him" reached No. 1. After signing to Columbia Records, she returned to No. 1 as a solo artist in 1989 with "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That." That same year, she starred in the hit movie Steel Magnolias with Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts.
A 1991 duet with Ricky Van Shelton, "Rockin' Years," reached No. 1 in 1991, but Parton's greatest commercial fortune of the decade -- and probably of all-time -- came when Whitney Houston recorded "I Will Always Love You" for The Bodyguard soundtrack, and both the single and the album were massively successful. In 1993, she recorded the album Honky Tonk Angels with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. thumb|300px|right|Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton - When I Get Where I'm Going
Parton re-recorded "I Will Always Love You" with Vince Gill, and they won a CMA award for vocal event in 1996. Taken from the album Trio II, a cover of "After the Gold Rush" won a Grammy for best country collaboration with vocals in 1999, and Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame later that year.
However, she was frustrated by her fruitless attempts to secure a solo hit single in the 1990s. Instead, she teamed with respected independent label Sugar Hill Records and offered the back-to-basics acoustic album The Grass Is Blue in 1999. An instant favorite among critics and longtime fans, it won the International Bluegrass Music Association's album of the year and a Grammy for best bluegrass album. She followed it with Little Sparrow in 2001 and Halos & Horns in 2002. The patriotic For God and Country appeared in 2003 and was followed by the CD and DVD Live and Well a year later. Those Were the Days from 2005 found Parton covering her favorite pop songs from the '60s and '70s.
In 2006, she earned her second Oscar nomination for "Travelin' Thru," which she wrote specifically for the film Transamerica. She also returned to No. 1 on the country charts later that year by lending her distinctive harmonies to the Brad Paisley ballad, "When I Get Where I'm Going."
Parton also changed the landscape of her Tennessee stomping grounds when she opened the Dollywood theme park in 1985. It remains among the most popular vacation destinations in the South. She has also donated more than 1 million books to pre-school children across the United States and provides scholarships to high school students in Sevier County, Tenn. In return, the county honored her with a life-size statue in front of the courthouse.
"I've always been a writer. My songs are the door to every dream I've ever had and every success I've ever achieved," says Dolly Parton of her incredible career, which has spanned nearly five decades and is showing no signs of slowing down.
An internationally renowned superstar, the iconic and irrepressible Parton has contributed countless treasures to the world of music entertainment, penning classic songs such as "Jolene," "Coat of Many Colors," and her mega-hit "I Will Always Love You." With 1977's crossover hit "Here You Come Again," she successfully erased the line between country and pop music without noticeably altering either her music or her image. "I'm not leaving country," she said at the time, "I'm just taking it with me."
Making her film debut in the 1980 hit comedy 9 to 5, Dolly earned rave reviews for her performance and an Oscar nomination for writing the title tune, along with her second and third Grammy Awards. Roles in Steel Magnolias, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, and Straight Talk followed, along with two network television series, made for television movies, network and HBO specials, and guest-starring roles in series television. In 2006, Dolly earned her second Oscar nomination for "Travelin' Thru," which she wrote for the film Transamerica.
Dolly Parton's remarkable life began very humbly. Born January 19, 1946 on a farm in Sevier County, Tennessee, Dolly is the fourth of twelve children. Her parents, Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton struggled to make ends meet in the impoverished East Tennessee hills. This hard rural life was the foundation of Dolly's career, as she began singing almost before she could talk, according to her father. By age 10, Dolly was performing on local television and radio shows in nearby Knoxville, Tennessee. "I always wanted to be a star. It just seemed natural to me," she said. "Making music is all I've ever known."
Dolly left for Nashville the day after her high school graduation. On her first afternoon there, she met a young man, Carl Dean, who would become her husband. Two years later, in May 1966, they were married. "He's good for me, cause he's so different in nature from me," she smiles.
In 1967, Dolly's career took off when country music superstar Porter Wagoner began featuring her on his popular syndicated television show, exposing Dolly to over 45 million people in more than 100 markets and attracting the attention of record executives at RCA. Dolly and Porter had 14 Top Ten hits together, and Dolly quickly blossomed into one of the best-selling country artists in music history. By 1974, Dolly ended her working relationship with Wagoner. She was voted the Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year two years in a row, and in 1978, Dolly was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year.
In 1974, "I Will Always Love You" topped the charts and did so again in 1982 when it was revived in the movie Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, making Dolly the first artist to earn a number one record twice with the same song. In 1992, the song was recorded by Whitney Houston for the movie The Bodyguard and went on to sell in excess of 4 million copies, topping the charts once again. "I Will Always Love You" was named BMI's Most Performed Song of the Year in 1993.
Dolly saw a cherished dream become a reality in 1986 with the opening of her own theme park called Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. The state's number one tourist attraction, Dollywood was selected by the theme park industry as one of the top three theme parks in the world in 2006.
In 1988, she began the Dollywood Foundation to inspire children in her home community to dream more, learn more, do more and care more. Currently the foundation funds the Dolly Parton Imagination Library across America and in Canada, by giving every preschool child a book each month from the time he or she is born until the child reaches kindergarten. With the help of local sponsors, this program has expanded to over 800 communities in 41 states and will give away over 5 million books in 2007 alone. Dolly says, "My dad was prouder of me for this program than for my music career. He thought it was grand that all the kids called me the Book Lady."
Also in 1988, Dolly founded a group of dinner attractions called Dixie Stampede. In 2001, she built Dollywood's Splash Country, which is Tennessee's largest water park. Dolly Parton's entertainment businesses attract 4.5 million visitors annually and employ more than 3,000 people.
Long respected for her instinctive business savvy, Dolly established Velvet Apple Music (BMI) early in her career and owns the copyrights and the publishing for her vast songwriting empire. She owns her own successful record label, Blue Eye Records.
Dolly Parton transitioned her flair for making hit music into producing hit movies and television shows when she established Sandollar Productions with former manager, Sandy Gallin. A film and television production company, Sandollar has produced feature films such as Father of the Bride I and II, Straight Talk, Sabrina, Shining Through, IQ, and the Academy Award-winning (for Best Documentary) Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, along with Fox television shows Babes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Her 1994 autobiography was aptly titled "My Life and Other Unfinished Business."
Dolly Parton is the most honored female country performer of all time. Achieving 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards, she has had 25 songs reach number 1 on the Billboard Country charts, a record for a female artist. She has 41 career top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and she has 110 career charted singles over the past 40 years. All-inclusive sales of singles, albums, hits collections, paid digital downloads and compilation usage during her Hall of Fame career have reportedly topped a staggering 100 million records world-wide.
She has garnered 7 Grammy Awards, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 5 Academy of Country Music Awards, 3 American Music Awards and is one of only five female artists to win the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year Award.
In 1999, Dolly Parton was inducted as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and became a member of the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. Broadcast Music, Inc. honored Dolly with their Icon Award in 2003, and in 2004, the U.S. Library of Congress presented her with their Living Legend Award for her contribution to the cultural heritage of the United States. This was followed in 2005 with the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given by the U.S. government for excellence in the arts.
In December 2006, Dolly was honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her lifetime of contributions to the arts. In June 2007 Dolly was named the recipient of the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. The Johnny Mercer Award is exclusively reserved for a songwriter who has already been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in a prior year, and whose body of work is of such high quality and impact, that it upholds the gold standard set by the legendary Johnny Mercer.
In February 2011, Dolly received the coveted GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given by the Recording Academy to performers who have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.
Yet with all of the national and international recognition given her, Dolly Parton calls the bronze statue of her, which stands on the courthouse lawn in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, her "greatest honor, because it came from the people who know me."
Always dreaming and always looking forward, Dolly is busier than ever. She is wrapping up filming for Joyful Noise, a movie in which she co-stars with Queen Latifah. In July 2011, Dolly embarks on the Better Day World Tour playing shows in the United States, Europe and Australia while supporting her 4th album on her own Dolly Records: Better Day, set for release in June 2011; these projects are just a few of her many interests at the moment. The phenomenon of Dolly Parton continues to flourish, as she remains one of world's true superstars.