Dolly Parton: Vaccine Queen

Con mucho sentido del humor y un talento único para la escena, la estrella de la música country y actriz de Tennessee se ha ido convirtiendo en todo un referente cultural transgeneracional.

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Sarah Davison

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Dolly Parton Vaccine Queen

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Dolly Parton is synonymous with big hair and glamour. But there’s a lot more to this southern belle than her image. Parton is a talented musician and an astute entrepreneur who has achieved international success. Since her career began in the 1960s, she has composed more than three thousand songs, such as Smoke Break and Jolene, and sold more than a hundred million records, and won eleven Grammy awards. And now, at the age of seventy-five, she is considered a cultural icon.

The early years

Born in a cabin by a river in the town of Pittman Center, Tennessee, Parton was the fourth of twelve children and has described her family as having been “dirt poor”. However, she had a happy childhood and became interested in music at a young age. After being given a guitar, she began writing her own songs. At the age of ten, she began playing music on local radio and television stations. Then, three years later, she made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry, a famous country music concert in Nashville that introduces new artists in the genre. After finishing high school, Parton moved to Nashville to begin her music career.

“It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”

International succes

Young Dolly Parton

In 1967, Parton appeared on a TV show hosted by the country music singer Porter Wagoner. After that, Parton and Wagoner began making music together and had several hit songs. Also in 1967 Parton released her debut album Hello, I’m Dolly. In the 1970s, she achieved success as a solo artist. She had her first number one song, Joshua, in 1971, and went on to release some of the most popular songs of all time, including, I Will Always Love You (1973) —famously covered by Whitney Houston for the movie The Bodyguard—, Jolene (1973) and 9 to 5 (1980).

Still going strong!

Dolly Parton in the 80

In the past decade, Parton has featured in or provided her voice to five films, written a book, released a number of albums, gone on tour in the US, and received two Lifetime Achievement Awards. The blonde bombshell is still going strong and recently told reporters that she has no plans to retire.

“I am a self-made woman, and I have the doctor bills to prove it.”

The vaccine queen

Parton responded to the Covid pandemic with a donation of $1 million towards vaccine research at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. When Parton received her Moderna vaccine in March, she even adapted her song Jolene to celebrate the occasion and to encourage other people to get any vaccine on offer to them:

Dolly Parton (American accent): I’m old enough to get it and I’m smart enough to get it. You should get out there and do it too. ‘Cause the sooner we get to feeling better, the sooner we are going to get back to being normal. So, all of you cowards out there... don’t be such a chicken squat! I even changed one of my songs to fit the occasion, it goes: “Vaccine... vaccine... vaccine... vaccine! I’m begging of you please don’t hesitate. Vaccine... vaccine... vaccine... vaccine! ‘Cause once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.” I know I’m trying to be funny now, but I’m dead serious about the vaccine. I think we all wanna get back to normal, whatever that is. And that would be a great shot in the arm, wouldn’t it?

All about attitude

Parton is equally candid about aging, as she told Oprah Winfrey.

Dolly Parton: I don’t think about my life in terms of numbers. First of all, I ain’t never going to be old, because I ain’t got time to be old! I can’t stop long enough to grow old. I’m just going to be the best I can be at whatever age I am. And I bet you I won’t look much different when I’m ninety-five: I’ll have all the make-up... make-up and lighting and all that. I’ll look as young as my plastic surgeons will allow me! But I think more than anything, it’s about what comes from inside you. It’s an attitude, and you’ve got to shine from within and sometimes that can make you feel young, and make you seem young to other people.

DOLLYISMS

Dolly Parton is not only one of the world’s best-loved celebrities, a feminist and LGBTQ icon, a business phenomenon, a magnanimous philanthropist and a cultural ambassador for the working-class American South: the country music star is also famous for her wit. Parton delivers sharp and smart maxims, known as “Dollyisms”, which she pronounces with her distinctive Southern accent, and combines worldly wisdom and a talent for comedy in humorous aphorisms:

“It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.”

“I know I look artificial, but I might surprise you. I’m totally real inside.”

“I’ve always been misunderstood because of how I look. Don’t judge me by the cover ‘cause I’m a real good book.”

“I’m not offended by all of the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb … and I also know that I’m not blonde..”

“Now people are always asking me, What do you want people to say about you a hundred years from now?’ I always say I want them to say ‘Dang, don’t she still look good for her age.’”

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

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