5 Things to Know about Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is one of the biggest names in modern country music. The larger-than-life musician is instantly recognizable due to her abundant blond hair, substantial makeup, outlandish outfits, and sweet but powerful voice. Her talent is undeniable, making her a country music legend with hits such as “I Will Always Love You,” “Jolene,” and “9 to 5.” Parton has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame for her contributions to both music performance and songwriting.

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Parton is also an experienced actress, appearing in films such as Steel Magnolias, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and 9 to 5. Her television career began on The Porter Wagoner Show, and she later hosted two of her own shows.

Although her public persona is loud and even a bit gaudy, Parton has kept her personal life surprisingly quiet. Here are five things you should know about country music legend Dolly Parton.

1. She’s been happily married for more than 50 years

Most people don’t know anything about Parton’s husband, Carl Dean, as he prefers to stay out of the spotlight. Parton and Dean met on the day she moved to Nashville to begin her singing career—outside a laundromat, of all places. They started chatting while she folded clothes, and it was love at first sight. The two married secretly in 1966 to avoid attention from the press; Parton was only 20 years old.

Dean quickly decided that life in the spotlight wasn’t for him. He appeared on a red carpet with her once the year they married and has rarely shown up in public with her since. Nevertheless, Parton has described him as her biggest supporter behind the scenes. She also wrote her hit song “Jolene” in honor of a bank teller who flirted with Dean a little too much.

2. She has three Guinness World Records

Everyone knows that Parton has had a huge number of country chart-topping hits. But you may not know that she has broken three Guinness World Records, too! She has broken records for releasing more studio albums than any other female country singer (65 as of this writing); having the most country albums in the Top 10 than any other female country singer (48 and counting), and having the longest span of No. 1 country album hits (43 years and counting).

3. She wrote two of her biggest hits within a few days of one another

Dolly Parton can’t quite remember if she wrote “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” on the same day, but they were certainly written within a day or two of one another. The songs were released on the same album in 1973 and have become two of Parton’s biggest hits of her career. She wrote “I Will Always Love You” for her longtime songwriting partner, Porter Wagoner. It became a smash hit almost 20 years later when Whitney Houston recorded a soul-pop version for the movie The Bodyguard.

[RELATED: The “Always” Love Between Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner]

4. She was one of 12 children

Parton might have a shockingly high net worth these days, but she was born into severe poverty in the mountains of East Tennessee. She was the fourth oldest of a whopping 12 children, most of whom were born in a one-bedroom cabin. They were so poor that they didn’t have electricity or running water—they caught fireflies in jars to light their home at night.

Despite her chaotic and impoverished childhood, Parton has credited her parents for both her love of music and business smarts. She wrote her song “Coat of Many Colors” about the memory of her mother quilting together a makeshift coat for her out of rags, and how hard her parents worked to provide for the family. Several of her siblings were also musical; she performed with her brother Randy Parton and collaborated frequently with another brother, Floyd Parton, on writing songs. Her sister Freida occasionally sang backup vocals on her albums, as well.

5. She has given millions to charity

Maybe it’s because she came from humble beginnings, but Parton is an extremely generous person. She started the Dollywood Foundation in her home county to combat high school dropout rates and increase the number of students enrolling in college. She also founded Dolly Parton’s Imagination, a literacy program that sends a free book to any child from birth to kindergarten. In addition to the many donations she has made to improve resources in her home state of Tennessee, she also donated $1 million toward vaccine development efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo Credit: Will Russell/Getty Images

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