Ambitious from a young age, country music singer Dolly Parton always knew she wanted to be a star. At just 5 years old, Parton wrote her first song, "Little Tiny Tassel Top." Two years later, she fashioned her first guitar out of an old mandolin and two bass guitar strings.
Music was her passion, and she was determined to make a career out of it.
At 13 years old, she began performing at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, meeting the likes of Johnny Cash and often receiving multiple encores. Her uncle began recording with her shortly after her Opry debut, and they started to reach the local Nashville radio.
In January of 1967, Parton finally found success on the Billboard country charts with two singles, "Dumb Blonde" and "Something Fishy." By July, Parton's first full-length album, "Hello, I'm Dolly," had been released, and the rest was history. Here are a few of her plentiful career highlights.
Dolly dominates the music charts
Her 13th solo studio album, "Jolene," shot to fame after its release in 1974. "Jolene," undoubtedly one of Parton's most well-known singles, reached #1 on the country charts. Her next four singles also all reached #1 on the country charts, and in 1975, the Country Music Awards (CMAs) awarded Parton with the Female Vocalist of the Year award. It’s even rumored that she wrote two of the hits, “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You,” on the same night. A true genius at work.
After Parton’s acting premiere in the 1980 comedy "9 to 5," her hit feature song of the film's soundtrack made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also won her two Grammys—Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Throughout her lifetime, she went on to compose over 3,000 songs.
Dolly gives back to the community
In 1986, Parton opened her theme park, Dollywood, near her hometown in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to pay homage to everyone who supported her as a young aspiring musician. It was evident that no matter how famous she became, helping her community was always going to be a top priority.
In 1988, Parton founded the Dollywood Foundation, which initially promised $500 to seventh- and eighth-grade students who graduated from high school in her hometown. According to their website, the initiative decreased the dropout rate from 35 percent to 6 percent. Since then, the foundation has served many different causes, including Parton's Imagination Library, a nonprofit that sends one book per month to each enrolled child from birth until their first year of school.
Dolly wins a slew of awards and honors
Parton’s hard work led to many well-deserved accolades over the years, starting with her induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and, later, her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999. The Library of Congress awarded Parton with the Living Legends Medal in 2004, which recognizes "individuals who have made significant contributions to America's cultural, scientific and social heritage."
In 2005, she was granted the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given by the U.S. government for excellence in the arts. Almost 54 years after releasing her first song, Parton received the prestigious lifetime achievement award in 2011. And in 2022, she accepted her nomination to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
It’s no wonder Parton has become one of the most-honored woman country performers of all time. She spent her entire life following her passion and paying her success forward, serving as a trailblazing role model along the way. She’s a modern career icon, and we can all learn from her timeless advice and wisdom.
25 best Dolly Parton quotes
Dolly Parton quotes on perseverance
1. “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.”
2. “Storms make trees take deeper roots.”
3. “I never tried quitting, and I never quit trying.”
4. “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
5. “If you’re feeling low, don’t despair. The sun has a sinking spell every night, but it comes back up every morning.”
Dolly Parton quotes on success and bravery
6. “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are an excellent leader.”
7. "I do believe that any successful business starts from the top and works its way down."
8. "You always want your people to be proud of what you have accomplished."
9. "You gotta keep trying to find your niche and trying to fit into whatever slot that's left for you or to make one of your own."
10. “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”
11. “I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”
Dolly Parton quotes on building a life
12. “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
13. “The seeds of dreams are often found in books, and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”
14. “I make a point to appreciate all the little things in my life. I go out and smell the air after a good, hard rain. I re-read passages from my favorite books. I hold the little treasures that somebody special gave me. These small actions help remind me that there are so many great, glorious pieces of good in the world.”
15. “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”
Dolly Parton quotes on knowing yourself
16. “I know how to stand my ground. I know how to speak up. I know how to stand sturdy. But that doesn’t mean I’ve hardened my heart.”
17. “You need to really believe in what you've got to offer, what your talent is—and if you believe, that gives you strength.”
18. "Find out who you are and do it on purpose."
19. “Above everything else I've done, I've always said I've had more guts than I've got talent. I know who I am; I know what I can and can't do. I know what I will and won't do. I know what I am capable of and I don't agree to do things that I don't think I can pull off.”
20. "Being a star just means that you just find your own special place, and that you shine where you are."
More Dolly Parton quotes
21. "Tell me I have to be somewhere, and I'll be there 20 minutes early and stay there longer than anybody else. You hold up a lot of people if you're not on time."
22. “Dream more, learn more, care more, and be more.”
23. “If we all climb together, we could climb the highest hill.”
24. “I never have changed in my taste, and the things that I love, and the way that I act, and all that. I never wanted to change, I just wanted to be successful, and be able to do more things for more people, and for myself as well.”
25. “I’m the kind of person who would rather rock in my rocking chair when I’m old and regret a few things that I did than to sit there and regret that I never tried...”