Yesterday, whilst browsing the web, I came across two articles about Dolly Parton. The first one was that someone, having tinkered with a Dolly record, produced a slowed down version of her hit song, Jolene. The result is a sound that Graham Norton called ‘Weird and wonderful’ on Twitter. Others have called it ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘hauntingly beautiful.’ I can’t argue about the backing track – it does have quite an enchanting sound – but the masculine voice? The jury might be out on this one.

The second piece of Dolly news is that over the next decade her theme park Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is planning a $300 million investment, including a new luxury hotel overlooking the Smoky Mountains, a fishing pond, and two high speed rollercoasters, the first of which is to be completed by 2014.

I found the second news item especially exciting, for I have a confession to make.

I love Dolly Parton. Not her music. Her.

Why do I love Dolly Parton? Well, her music is about as far removed from my tastes as can be, and I don’t find pneumatic blondes particularly endearing…

The reasons I warm to Dolly as much as I do can be pinpointed to the following areas:

Charity Work
No one can deny that Dolly has made millions from both her talent and her business ventures, but she also gives back to the locals. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library donates a free book every month to pre-school children in 1600 communities in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. Over 700,000 children are registered in the scheme (24,000 in the UK) and nearly 40 million books have been posted. In addition to this the non-profit American Eagle Foundation is based at Dollywood, with Dolly being their biggest benefactor. The Foundation aims to protect bald eagles and their habitat.

Business Acumen
Dollywood is the biggest ticketed attraction in the entire state of Tennessee, with around three million annual visitors. It is also the largest employer in the area, and Dolly herself has said that after making it big she wanted to “come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area.” The expansion of the park is sure to increase employment as well as tourism in the local area.

For such a huge global star, Dolly is extremely down to earth, with a good sense of humour. She famously remarked, ‘It takes a lot of money to look this cheap’, showing she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

DreamMore is the name of Dolly’s new resort hotel, which is incidentally the name of a book she released in 2012. From her humble origins – she was brought up in a one-room cabin with eleven siblings – to her multi-million dollar empire, Dolly is proof that with hard work and determination, you really can be anything you want.

I’ve never been to Tennessee, but I doubt that I’d visit for the sole purpose of visiting Dollywood. However, I would love to explore the Smoky Mountains. I would also like to visit Sun Studio, where musical legends like Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley rehearsed and recorded. If I did happen to end up at the gates of Dollywood, I might just need to sneak in…

American Eagle Foundation