Dolly Parton has humble beginnings. She was born in a one-room cabin in Tennessee, one of twelve children, and in a largely illiterate family. However, at a young age Parton found music, and by the time she was a teenager, she performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
While a talented singer and guitarist, Parton's early successes came from songwriting for other artists. She made a name for herself in country music; in 1973, Parton had her first single hit, "Jolene"--still a popular tune today. In 1974, she recorded "I Will Always Love You," which appeared in her film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), and was later covered by Whitney Houston for the 1992 film The Bodyguard (the song is also in the 2012 musical of the same name). One of her most famous duets is with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream" (1983).
In the early 1980s, Parton transitioned into film, starring in several comedies, such as 9 to 5 (1980) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In 1989, she starred in the film adaptation of Steel Magnolias, originally a stage play. Her advocacy for strong female characters extended into producing as well; as co-owner of Sanddollar Productions, she helped produce the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). In 1986, Parton purchased Silver Dollar City, an amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN, and transformed it into Dollywood.
Perhaps Dolly Parton's greatest cultural contributions have been for arts advocacy and literacy. Through the Dollywood foundation, she has distributed millions of books to children throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and elsewhere. In 2005, Parton was awarded the National Medal of the Arts, and in 2006, she was honored by the Kennedy Center. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1999), the Grammy Hall of Fame (2007 and 2014), and the Happiness Hall of Fame (2016)--among many other honors.
For the musical 9 to 5, Parton was nominated for Best Music and Best Lyrics (Drama Desk Awards) and Best Original Score (Tony Awards). In 2016, Parton and her husband Carl Thomas Dean celebrated their 50 year anniversary. She continues to work and advocated for social causes throughout the United States and the world.
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