OPINION: Dolly Parton is the most versatile, impactful artist in the world

Singer Dolly Parton with her arms raised and a cartoon crown floating above her head.
Graphic by Elaine Yang

Dolly Parton came into my life when I was a freshman in high school, and I haven’t been the same since. 

The first time I thought I was in love, naturally with a guy my parents hated, I listened to “Two Doors Down” on repeat for nine hours straight as I drove home from a lacrosse tournament in Palm Springs.

Two years later, when that same boy broke my heart, I had multiple daydreams about singing “If You Need Me” on his front lawn. 

When my grandma died last May, I listened to “Heartbreaker” in my hammock with my dog and cried. It was the most therapeutic part of my grieving process. 

This summer, when my sister told me the song “Something Special” makes her think of me, I wrote her a three-page letter about how I’m never going to find love because no man will ever understand me as well as she does. 

When I finally decided to leave my toxic high school at the end of junior year and begin independent study, I beamed as I drove to the beach with my dog while listening to “Hush-A-Bye Hard Times.

Parton’s always been there for me, no matter the situation, and it’s time to recognize her as the most versatile and generous artist in the world. 

For too long, her incredible success in multiple musical fields, songwriting credits and humanitarian work has been in the shadow of her stereotype as just a blonde, big-boobed country singer. But let me tell you, this woman does it all. She’s the modern day Athena.

She’s sold over 100 million albums, had 110 career-charted singles (including 26 singles reaching No. 1 on the Billboard country charts), composed over 3,000 songs and been nominated for two Academy Awards

Whoa. 

These awards span the wide range of music that Parton has produced in many genres. She does country (obviously), but also pop, folk, gospel, R&B, rock and children’s music.

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She’s an amazing country singer, but she’s so much more. If you think you aren’t a Parton fan, think again. There’s something for everyone.

Few people recognize that the artist got her start as a songwriter. She wrote songs for Bill Phillips, Skeeter Davis and Hank Williams Jr. and has a creative knack for writing intelligent songs that move the listener. 

Even fewer people know Parton wrote and performed “I Will Always Love You” first, not Whitney Houston. Houston certainly slays that song in a way unmatched by any other artist who has attempted to do so, but come on people! Parton freaking wrote that piece of musical excellence. 

Aside from Parton’s incredible music career, she’s also made a big difference from an activist standpoint. She started the Dollywood Foundation in 1988, an effort to reduce high school dropout rates in her home county, according to The Boot, an online country news outlet. 

One of her first initiatives, the Buddy Program, gave $500 to each seventh and eighth grader that finished high school, The Boot reported. She helped to reduce the dropout rate to just 6 percent.

She also started the Imagination Library, a charity that sends out books to kids once a month until they start school, according to The Boot. The program now has a global presence and has donated over 100 million books. 

After the East Tennessee wildfires in 2016, Parton launched the My People Fund, which provided families who had lost their homes $1,000 a month for six months, The Boot reported. She eventually also gave participants a $5,000 check and donated $8.9 million directly to the people who needed it the most. 

In 2010 when the new LeConte Medical Center opened in Parton’s hometown of Sevierville, she funded the 30,000-square-foot Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services, according to The Boot. She donated $500,000 to the new hospital effort and held a charity concert as well. 

This woman really is somewhat of an angel.

She inspires me to get to know people and refrain from believing my first impressions. Her talent and generosity is inspiring and downright altruistic, and she deserves to be recognized for that — more than anyone else. 

While it may take more than a die-hard fan writing an article on her behalf to get people to recognize Parton beyond what’s on the exterior, I know she can wait graciously and I know her time will come. She said it best herself: “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.”

Georgia Scott PZ ’23 is from Marin County, California. She loves mint chip ice cream and her sister Isabella, and she is going to be Dolly Parton for Halloween this year.

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