The other side of the mountain: An interview with Dolly Parton

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 3:13 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (TENNESSEE VALLEY LIVING) - What do you ask an icon in seven minutes? Thankfully, Dolly Parton started the conversation with a warm hello and a big wave.

Parton, often called the queen of country music, is one of the most well-respected musicians in the world. Through the decades of her career, she continues to impress fans new and old and usually does so covered in sparkles and self-respect.

The 76-year-old musician recently hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards and released a new book with author James Patterson, but keep in mind, she has no intentions of slowing down.

“I’ve got something in the works all the time,” Parton said. I’m real proud to be in a position where I get to do those things and there’s demand for me to do other things. So, I’m going to take advantage of that as long as it lasts.”

Known all around the world, the East Tennessee native credits her family and upbringing for where she is today.

“I grew up in a very musical family. All my mom’s people used to sing. My grandpa was a preacher and he was a musician too,” Parton explained. “I started writing and playing the guitar when I was 7-years-old... But I just always believed that through God I could do anything because that’s what I learned in church. And I believed in my talent and I just thought, well, this is what I want to do. I don’t want to stay on the farm. Although I loved the farm and I wanted to come back to the farm... I just wanted to see what was on the other side of the mountain. And so, I just felt like I was led to do this. I felt like this was my journey, my purpose.”

And when it came to following her dreams and leaving that Tennessee mountain home, her faith, and self-worth are what steered her direction.

“I just wanted to make money, but more than anything I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be better to better myself and I just held on to that dream. I tried to be smart about what I was willing to sacrifice and what I was not to get to where I wanted to go. But I never sacrificed my principles and my values... You just have to believe in yourself and to thine own self be true,” added Parton.

As someone who seems to have done it all, she says it’s moments like becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Songwriters Hall of Fame that are still highlights of her life. Yet, her proudest accomplishment is Imagination Library, a program she created that gifts books to children. If you can read, she says, there is a book to teach you about anything you want to do or take you anywhere you want to go. A book can often be a seed to any dream you can imagine.

As TVL’s quick time with the musician wrapped up that afternoon, it was humbling to learn Dolly Parton lives her life like many other wise women from Tennessee, with grit and grace.

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