Gay Iconography: Why We Will Always Love Dolly Parton


Dolly got her big break performing regularly with Porter Wagoner on his weekly syndicated television show. She wrote "I Will Always Love You" about their professional separation in the early 1970s. (There's an episode of Drunk History, with Happy Endings' Casey Wilson as Dolly Parton, that hilariously recounts what happened after their split. See the uncensored clip here.) Since going solo, Dolly has collaborated with many other artists, including Boy George, Nickel Creek and most famously, Kenny Rogers on "Islands In the Stream." She also released two albums with Linda Rondstadt and Emmylou Harris (as Trio), as well as 1993's Honky Tonk Angels with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.


Her aesthetic is the butt of many jokes (mostly her own), however, she's a seriously incredible songwriter. "Jolene" may be the most famous Other Woman in music history, but it's Parton's personal favorite song, "Coat of Many Colors," that's been added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry for being “historically, culturally or aesthetically significant.” So many of her songs tell incredible stories, with stand-outs like "Down From Dover," "Daddy's Moonshine Still," and "My Tennessee Mountain Home."


Though mostly considered a country artist, Dolly has had plenty of cross-over into pop. "Here You Come Again" was her first single to reach the top ten on the pop charts. "Starting Over Again," "Heartbreaker" and "Baby I'm Burning" also made the Top 40.


Parton has left her mark on movies as well. Her film credits include the classic Steel Magnolias, so-bad-it’s-good Rhinestone and, most recently, Joyful Noise with Queen Latifah. However, it’s 9 To 5 that’s most adored by audiences. The film’s titular song — for which Parton wrote the rhythm by rubbing her acrylic nails together — topped Billboard’s Hot Country, Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 charts. It also earned her an Academy Award nomination. (She received her second Oscar nom for “Travelin’ Thru” from Transamerica.) Additionally, she was recognized with a Tony award nomination in 2009 for writing 9 To 5: The Musical's original score.


The power of Parton’s appeal also lies in her special brand of aw-shucks positivity. One of her famous Dollyisms is “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!” That attitude comes through on songs like “Better Get To Livin’” and “Together You And I,” but there’s almost no better cure for the blues than “Two Doors Down.”

Which Dolly moments do you hold most dear? Let us know in the comments!