From her musical highlights to her world-changing charity work, we love you Dolly
David Roskin
13:40 15th March 2022

Yesterday country music legend, Dolly Parton, announced her refusal to accept a nomination for induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame due to feeling as if she ‘hasn’t earned that right’. 

Another act from a person so genuinely congenial that we can’t helped and be a little shocked every time her penchant for kindness is revealed. Or to be shocked that someone can be this humble when they are the Dolly Parton. Others nominated don’t strictly fit the rock and roll stereotype (Eminem and Kate Bush, to name a few), but Dolly has taken this nomination, and her husband’s love of rock as a sign for a genre shift and hope for a future, deserved (in her eyes), nomination.

It’s not her first denial of a major accolade, with her revealing a refusal of the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice. Granted, these were circumstantial, but she still debates if she’s worthy of the honour.

Dolly, with confidence, we at Gigwise can say you are.

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Country musician, legendary songwriter, theme park founder and beyond, we’re continually reminded that no one is doing it like Dolly. Ask anyone in your life what is the first thing they associate with her and you’ll get a different answer from each. Your dad might say ‘9 to 5’, your colleagues her funding towards research for the Moderna vaccine, your best mate might try for the deep cut of the books she gives to kids.

Dolly has a long list of accolades, musical and not, to her name. And her colourful history of charitable good could make a hefty book, but we’ll attempt to make do with one article.

Career Highs

Kicking off with her musical career, Dolly’s seven-decade career has seen her sell 100 million+ records. And because 10 Grammys aren’t quite enough, she broke three Guinness World Records in 2021, including beating out one of her old records to win again. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her reach the career-high of an EGOT (an individual holding an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) as she’s already been nominated for each, except a Tony, on multiple occasions. 

Accolades aside, in 2017 Dolly revealed she wrote both ‘Jolene’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’ on the same day back in 1972. Two songs that have permeated culture for decades, spawning numerous massive covers and providing us all with flawless karaoke options. 

And if that wasn’t enough, Dolly continued her legacy as being the best person ever when she revealed that all her royalties from Whitney Houston’s 1991 cover of I Will Always Love you went straight back to Black community in Nashville, Tennessee.

Her musical endeavours show no sign of slowing with her latest album Run, Rose, Run dropped just a few weeks ago, as a companion to her debut novel. The woman just never stops. 

COVID-19 Vaccine research

Something none of us had on our 2020 bingo card was Dolly sponsored vaccines. Donating $1 million to research by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, her contribution helped lead to the development of the Moderna vaccine. 

In an era rife with misinformation, Dolly implored the public to get jabbed in a video receiving her own dose of Moderna, and serenaded us with the most 2021 song ever, ‘Jolene’ turned ‘Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate.’.

Imagination Library

In 1995 Dolly launched her Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee where she was born and raised, focussed on boosting literacy and encouraging creativity in children. Working way beyond 9-5, the book gifting programme rapidly grew, expanding to the rest of the United States, Republic of Ireland, Australia, and even Rotherham as she launched the programme in the UK with a visit to the town.

The scheme mails free books to children between birth and the age of five, no matter the family’s income and in 2020, the Imagination Library sent out their 150 millionth book.


The phrase ‘your fave could never’ is often tossed around the internet. In this case, your fave definitely could never own their own theme park, complete with resorts and water park.

Dolly purchased a share in an existing park and had it rebranded to Dollywood in 1986. She never wavered on why this was a clear endeavour for her- a vow to herself to reinvest in her home state and give back to the Tennessee towns that raised her.

As of 2019, Dollywood employs more people in Sevier County than any other business. And to one up that, this year it was announced that all 11,000 employees of Herschend Enterprises (Dollywood’s parent group) would have all college tuition, books, and other fees covered by the company.

Dolly had previously worked to encourage children in the county to graduate high school, through a buddy system that offered $500 each to you and your buddy if you both graduated, managing to crash the dropout rate from 30% to 6% and offered college scholarships in the area. 

Jack of all trades, master of none has no bearing on Dolly. We’ve not even touched on her continued and staunch allyship for the LGBTQ+ community, the Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services, her stance against systemic racism, or her ‘My People Fund’ to help wildfire victims in her hometown.  She’s crafted a legacy unlike no other, being a shiny example of how big names in music should be acting. We can only hope that she becomes the blueprint- we need people more like her. In a time of increasing economic uncertainty, those with the means to change the world for the better need to take action. 

With the rate Dolly shares her wealth, it’s entirely plausible that by the time you reach the end of this article she’s started a new enterprise. We adore Dolly Parton not just for the music or for who she is, but because she’s who we all want to be. What is amazing about Dolly is that any of us could be her. No wealth backed her, she wasn’t born into the industry- she couldn’t have been further from it. Dolly isn’t just an example of sometimes reaching her goals and changing the world, she is the definition. 

Dolly hasn’t done this for recognition or reward, but because she wants to leave the world better than she found it. Her art speaks for itself, she’s a cultural monolith with philanthropic efforts that effects will be felt for generations to come. We can only hope and pray that she inspires musicians forever to follow in her footsteps.

For most of us, our lifetimes have been marked by tragedy after tragedy, economic crises followed by a pandemic and uncertainty like we’ve never known- folks like Dolly highlight the inherent good in humanity. This is our salute to the icon, the GOAT, the hero that is Dolly. 

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Photo: Press