Dolly Parton is one of those artists who seems to be loved by everyone. She has fans all over the world, across several generations, and she is adored by the public and celebrities alike. To put it in perspective, she once modestly said of herself: “The whole magic about me is that I look artificial, but I’m totally real. People can see that. They forgive me for being gaudy. They forgive me for not being stylish. They forgive me for not being as smart as some educated people might be. People see me. I want them to know me. I’m not bashful.”
Parton is one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of all time – particularly in the country music genre – having sold over 100million records worldwide, taken 25 songs to number one on the Billboard Country Music chart and composed over 3000 songs, including the hits ‘I Will Always Love You’, ‘Jolene’ and ‘9 to 5’. She has been awarded the coveted Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and is undoubtedly an icon in every sense of the word.
Yet, despite her worldwide adoration, Parton once commented on her lack of a friendship with Bob Dylan: “I’ve met him a few times, but I never felt any warmth from him to me. I think I have offended him somehow by the way I looked or the way I was. I love his music, but he’s a weird buckaroo. I don’t feel like we ever connected. Maybe he just thought I was too phoney, or he didn’t get to know me too well.”
“I always loved his music,” Parton added. “His mind is so deep, but his melodies are so good. They lend themselves so well to harmonies. I’ve even thought about making an album called Dolly Does Dylan, but I think that sounds too close to Debbie Does Dallas!”
Parton has covered three Dylan songs throughout her career, ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’, ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ and ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’. Allegedly, she invited Dylan down to join her on her rendition of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ for her 2005 album Those Were the Days, but Dylan declined. She then asked Dylan’s son Jakob to fill in for his dad, but he too declined the opportunity.
Although Dylan did not want to feature on Parton’s album, that did not stop a number of other high-profile singers from making an appearance on her 41st solo studio album, with Keith Urban, Kris Kristofferson and Judy Collins all contributing to the LP that reached number 48 on the Billboard 200.
Whilst Parton may not have earned the affection of Dylan that she seems to have desired, she has many other famous friends, including Reba McEntire, Miley Cyrus and Jack White. She once recalled her pleasant encounter with White: “Jack was at the same restaurant as me. We thought we’d order everything so we’d know what to order next time we went. Jack was there and he picked up our tab! I never felt so bad in my life because that bill must have been outrageous.”
But Parton herself has previously exemplified Jack White’s kindness that day in the restaurant. Another of her close friends, Jane Fonda, once said, “She is profound, and she has a really, really huge heart, and she’s really smart and deeply spiritual.”