Born in January 1946 and raised in rural Tennessee, Dolly Parton’s vocal talents were evident early on – at 12 she was a regular on local television. She left her Appalachian mining town for Nashville in 1965 and had a recording contract within two weeks.
By 1970 Dolly had enjoyed so many hits that RCA released a ‘Best Of’ album, but it was 1971’s Coat Of Many Colors, an album of all original material, that established her as one of country music’s most original singers and songwriters.
Opening with the title track, Parton sang of rural poverty not as a tragic experience but as one that bonded the family in love – her coat of rags was sewn by her mother with such deep feeling Dolly felt truly privileged.
The album was a model of economy, its ten songs clocking in at less than 30 minutes, and the sentiments expressed helped reassure a rural, white, working-class America that found itself increasingly alienated by pop and rock music. The album won over the critics who realised they were dealing with a seriously talented singer-songwriter.
In 1974 she hit the commercial big time with her self-penned showstopper, Jolene. Sung with understated passion, the song transformed popular perceptions of country music (it was a Top 10 hit in the UK), and showed Parton to be the definitive performer of her own material. It was also a 1976 UK Top 10.
In 1977 she secured her first Top 10 hit in her native America with Here You Come Again, a lovely piano-based ballad written by Mann and Weil.
It seemed only right that when Dolly finally secured her first US #1 in February 1981, it was with one of her own compositions. 9 To 5 was the title song to a 1980 movie in which Parton starred alongside Jane Fonda.
The success of both film and record established Parton well and truly beyond Country’s confines.