Like cellular technology and Central Park, Dolly Parton is a thing of remarkable beauty and accomplishment that too many of us take for granted. It’s not just that she’s written some really remarkable songs—even if you don’t like her voice or country music in general, you cannot deny the commercial accomplishment that is “I Will Always Love You”—but that she’s become so successful while never forgetting her roots.
Dolly famously grew up poor and penniless in the Smokey Mountains, and she gave back by building Dollywood, one of the world’s most insane themeparks, back in Pigeon Forge, TN. In creating her park, which has more pie stands, rescued eagles, and leather tooling stands than rides, she turned the area into a tourist attraction, even beyond the park, and basically created the local economy. No matter how glitzy her look (or wacky her plastic surgery becomes), she never stops reminding audiences that “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap,” and I will never stop reminding people that 9-5 is the most subversive movie of its era this side of Taxi Driver.
Even if you can’t love Dolly for her turn on the Trio records or the fact that Dollywood has a Christmas parade almost every day of the year, you must give her praise for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the nonprofit she created which gives out a free, quality childrens book every month to every kid that signs up, from birth to kindergarten. Books are not cheap, libraries are not easy for every mom to get to, and Dolly couldn’t afford a coat as a kid, let alone In The Night Kitchen.
Oprah might’ve recommended books to her viewers, but she just put a sticker on them or shoved them under the seats in her old studio; Dolly puts them in parents’ hands, be they in Tennessee or Texas or even New York (hint, hint). So please, let’s appreciate all that Dolly does, not just for Pigeon Forge, but for the future.