Still truckin’

On her 70th birthday, Dolly Parton remembers coming of age

(NYT41) NEW YORK -- May 2, 2008 -- PARTON-MUSIC-REVIEW -- Dolly Parton at Radio City Music Hall in New York on May 1, 2008. (Rahav Segev/The New York Times)

Happy birthday to the one-of-a-kind Dolly Parton! The Tennessee country music legend and style icon celebrates her 70th birthday today.

The fourth child of 12, Parton was raised in the Great Smoky Mountains, an area that would come to influence and define her country sound and superstar persona after she started performing live at the age of ten. Her inaugural Grand Ole Opry appearance was in 1959 and 20 years later, she won her first of eight Grammy awards. Parton has also received at least one nomination across all four major awards: Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, and Tony.

Parton’s hasn’t just stamped her mark on music: there’s Dollywood, her East Tennessee theme park, an illustrious film career—highlights include 1980’s 9 to 5 and her latest for NBC, “Coat of Many Colors”— and activism that includes the Imagination Library, a charity she established in 1995 that sends children one book a month from birth to kindergarten.

The beloved entertainer took to her blog to celebrate seven decades of life, remembering her 18th birthday as a personal favorite celebration, because it was when she formally struck out on her own. “I had been traveling back and forth to Nashville all those years before, and I knew my Daddy would send a posse after me if I left before I was 18,” Parton said. A year later, the songwriter who would later pen “I Will Always Love You” released the single, “I Wasted My Tears.” She has released 42 solo studio albums and received the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Time commemorated her life on the road with an excerpt from Parton’s 1977 tour, which includes highlights like this gem: “This is about a woman who tried to steal my man,” Dolly cries out [to the crowd]. “She pulled my wig off and almost beat me to death with it. I fought that woman like a wildcat. I had another wig, but I didn’t want another man.”

Take a moment to honor Parton (and her amazing wigs!) by watching this 1974 performance of one of her most famous hits, “Jolene.”

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