There’s nobody quite like Dolly Parton.
She’s a musical genius, a savvy business woman and a beautiful person, inside and out.
But she’s also just a fascinating human being. Dolly has made a persona for herself that is genuine, lovable and open, yet at the same time, she is able to keep her private life private in ways that most people will never truly understand.
For a woman who’s stayed in the spotlight for so many years, people don’t even seem to know what she really looks like underneath the rhinestones and hair. There are rumors that she has tattoos on her arms because no one has seen them for years.
Some people even believe that she can take her wig off, put on a baggy sweater and walk down the streets of Sevierville without being spotted.
How is it possible to know so much about someone yet really know so little? It’s things like this that make her life and career so fascinating – and such a great topic for a documentary.
“Dolly Parton: Here I Am” started streaming in the US on Netflix on Oct. 6, 2020. To celebrate, here are four things from the documentary that you probably didn’t know about Dolly Parton:
4. ‘Coat of Many Colors’ is Dolly Parton’s favorite song
According to the documentary, Dolly Parton has written as many as 3,000 songs in her career.
If we’re doing some quick, rough math, that works out to more than one song per week. And a lot of her songs, like “Jolene” and “9-5” are such big hits that they’re recognized on a global scale.
With that many songs – and so many hits – it’s easy to imagine that it’s hard to pick a favorite. But in the documentary, Dolly says her favorite song is “Coat of Many Colors”.
“Coat of Many Colors is my favorite song because it covers a lot of ground,” says Dolly.
She says it’s special to her because it’s a song about her mother, who she loved very much. The song is about confidence, bullying and acceptance.
“It’s okay to be different,” says Dolly. “It’s not only not okay, it’s wonderful.”
3. Dolly Parton started performing at age 10
Dolly often talks about growing up poor in the country. She says they didn’t have television when she was a kid, so they had to find other ways to entertain themselves.
So Dolly would often write songs and perform them for her family. She says each song is like a little movie.
“I’m from a family of twelve children,” says Dolly. “I think being the fourth one down, I didn’t get a lot of attention. I was the kind of kid that needed a lot of attention.”
But she said her uncle played guitar and recognized how serious she was about music from an early age.
Her first public appearance was on the Cas Walker radio show at ten years old. She said they kept bringing her back on the radio, and one day she looked at her uncle and said, “I’m gonna be a star, ain’t I?”
“That was the moment that I realized, that was what I was gonna do the rest of my life,” Dolly says.
2. Dolly Parton is a feminist … without being a feminist
Any journalist who has tried to ask Dolly about her political views knows that if you ask Dolly a question about politics, you’ll probably get a joke instead.
In an archive interview, Dolly is asked about her thoughts on the women’s rights movement in the 60s, and she simply says that she was the first to burn her bra … which took the fire department three weeks to put out.
Dolly can work a room with the best of them.
But while she will not speak on certain topics, she wrote “Just because I’m a Woman” in the late 60s, and the lyrics are very telling, especially for the time:
Now a man will take a good girl
And he’ll ruin her reputation
But when he wants to marry
Well that’s a different situation
He’ll just walk off and leave her
To do the best she can
While he looks for an angel
To wear his wedding band
According to the documentary, Dolly has a knack for writing anthems for movements while simultaneously avoiding them completely.
Dolly refuses to do anything that will make her fans uncomfortable. Her wish is to be an entertainer.
The most insight we probably have on Dolly’s true thoughts is through her music, which brings us to …
1. Dolly Parton shares her true inner self through her songs
Dolly says that she writes as a way of expressing herself.
“It’s my therapy,” says Dolly. “You have to search for a long time, cause I’ve written a lot of songs, but yes, there are pieces of me in everything I write.”
I’ve heard Dolly say in interviews that sometimes she writes songs on behalf of other people, but she often tells stories and shares lessons through her art.
“I actually take my songwriting more serious than anything else I do,” says Dolly. “So i would say I’m a songwriter first.”
Dolly’s manager, Danny Nozell, says she’s writing all the time.
“I’ve seen her, when someone needs something written quickly, Dolly will go to the bathroom, get a sharpie, write it on a piece of toilet paper – and write a song on there – and come out and it’s ready,” says Nozell. “She’s that quick. That creative. And it’s good!”
Where to watch “Dolly Parton: Here I Am”
The “Dolly Parton: Here I Am” documentary initially streamed in the UK, but it is now streaming in the US as of Oct. 6, 2020. The documentary does a deep dive into Dolly’s historic career and includes interviews with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and more.
For more information, visit the Netflix website.