The best pictures of country icon Dolly Parton through the years.
Singer. Songwriter. Entertainer. Actress. Author. Businesswoman. Humanitarian. These are just some of the adjectives that describe country icon Dolly Parton.
But if Parton had to choose just one thing to be, "I would be a songwriter. Everything that I am starts with that song,” she says in her 2020 Parade cover feature.
Parton, 76, began composing at a young age, even before she learned to write them on paper herself. When she was five, her mother hand-wrote her first song, "Little Tiny Tassel Top,” about a beloved corn cob doll her father made for her. “Little tiny tassel top. You’re the only friend I got. Hope you never go away. I want you to stay.”
The fourth of 12 children, Parton and her family lived in a one-room cabin tucked into the Great Smoky Mountains in Sevierville, Tenn. She grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio and had big dreams for the future. While she was never ashamed of being poor, she would have been ashamed if she didn't become the best she could be. “I always felt like I was somebody,” she has said.
By the time she was 10, Parton was performing on “The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour,” a local TV show in Knoxville. “I was on television before we owned one,” Parton told Oprah Winfrey. As she explains, “My desire has always been more important than my fear.” So the day after graduating from high school Parton boarded a bus for Nashville. “I knew there was a world beyond the Smoky Mountains that I hadn’t seen,” she explains. “I was such a curious person, I wanted to be part of it.”
She hasn't just been part of it, Parton became it. In a career that has thrived for more than 60 years, Parton has broken records: 25 No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts, 41 Top 10 country albums, nine Grammy awards 43 Grammy nominations and four Guinness World Records.
Dolly Parton Guinness World Records
Most decades on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart (female) - (7 decades)
Most No.1 hits on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart by a female artist (25 hits)
Most hits on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart by a female artist (109 hits)
Most decades with a Top 20 hit on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart (6 decades)
Dolly Parton has written some 3,000 songs, many of them hits for herself and for others, including Whitney Houston, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and Merle Haggard. Plus, Parton has paved the way by inspiring countless artists from Carrie Underwood and Melissa Etheridge to Miley Cyrus and Reba McEntire. “[She was a] huge influence on me, not to mention every girl in country music...,” McEntire said when Parton received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. “There ain’t nobody like Dolly Parton.”
In honor of her milestone-filled career, we're taking a trip down memory lane with 35 photos of Dolly Parton through the years, including pictures when she was young, precious family photos and photos then and now.