Wed, Aug 24, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Home on the range with Dolly Parton

The country music star on high heels, ‘hillbilly ways’ and the truth about her marriage

By Hadley Freeman  /  The Observer, LONDON


Parton was born and raised in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, the fourth of 11 surviving children. Her father, a sharecropper, couldn’t afford to pay the doctor who delivered her and so gave him a sack of cornmeal, leading to Parton’s oft-repeated joke about how she’s been “making dough ever since.” She began singing on the radio as a child and went to Nashville to start recording and singing songs as soon as she graduated from high school.

“Back in those days people said it was hard for women to get into the business but I always felt being a woman served me well. I had all these brothers and uncles so I understood the nature of men and I didn’t go in there feeling all intimidated. I just went in there and said: ‘Hey! I have a good product here and we can all make some money here if y’all wanna get involved with it.’”

This self-confidence was to come in handy over the years, such as when she refused to let Elvis Presley sing I Will Always Love You, because his manager Tom Parker was insisting that he got half of the publishing rights. When Jane Fonda approached Parton, who had never acted before, to appear in 9 to 5, Parton agreed — on condition she could write the theme song.

“I was gonna be rich no matter how much it cost/I was gonna win no matter how much I lost,” Parton sings in Sacrifice, one of the best songs on her new album.

So what has it cost her? “I gave up time with family and friends, I can’t ever plan too far ahead, I didn’t have children ... ” she reels off.

Parton underwent a partial hysterectomy when she was 36 and suffered from serious depression, both before and after the operation: “It lasted about 18 or 20 months. I wasn’t doing too well.” She credits her recovery to God, work and Sylvester Stallone, and not necessarily in that order: “We were making Rhinestone then and, oh, Stallone was so healthy for me to be around ... ”

Time is up and I can have one last question. Tell me one thing about yourself that would surprise your fans, I say.

“Oh lordy, I think they know pretty much everything!” she replies merrily, beginning to get up.

I think they barely know anything.

She looks taken aback and sits back down.

“Well actually, that’s probably right. They think they know so much but I am very protective and private about my very personal stuff. So yes, they would be surprised by how little they really know me. Ha ha ha!”

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