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Music

Dolly Parton on Elvis Presley and being called the "female Elvis"

Although she caught a wave to stardom in the 1960s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that Dolly Parton hit the peak of her success with a marked transition to more pop-oriented chart-topping music. By 1978, Parton was frequently labelled the Queen of Country music, and many were comparing her to the recently deceased King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley

In a 1978 interview with Playboy Magazine, Parton was asked about the parallels between herself and Elvis. She explained that while she hadn’t ever had the chance to meet Elvis, “There was nobody that [she] ever related to more. I always felt that we were kin.”

Parton elaborated, “He was very loving, very emotional, very sensitive, very giving, very humble, thankful, grateful. I always felt that he was totally in awe of his own success and he didn’t quite understand why he had been so chosen and why he was such an idol.”

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Later, Parton explained that they also seemed to have a connection on a religious and spiritual level. “How he felt about God and religion was always somethin’ I related to a lot, because I know he was brought up with his mother in the Assembly of God,” she said. “It was a real free-spirited, shoutin’ church. I watched and heard how he reacted to gospel music and how he loved that the best of all and how he almost seemed to feel he had a callin’ to do somethin’ different and maybe more spiritual than what he actually was doin’, but you know, he never got a chance to try.”

The interviewer then described the comparisons many had been making at the time between herself and Elvis, asking if she thought there could ever be another Elvis and more specifically, a “female Elvis”. “That is possible,” she answered. “I think there is due a person, a female, which there has never been. A person of that type, with that great magnetism and that great mysterious thing, that great love, that charisma and magic to draw people to her, that can help people in many ways just through her music. Yes, I think that a female is due, I do. And your next question: Do I think it is me?”

Parton seemed to avoid the question of whether she thought of herself as the new Elvis and seemed to want her audience to decide such things. “I would like to be a person truly loved enough to be able to have that much of an impact on people as far as bein’ able to guide them or help them or let them see that you’re caring,” she opined.

Concluding the discussion about Elvis, Parton commented on the icon’s final years and highlighted his unparalleled global impact. “He touched people’s lives in a lot of ways,” she said. “He was the sex symbol of the world and when he started gainin’ weight and gettin’ fat, he lost a lot of his glamour to a lot of people. I always thought his manager was brilliant, as well. They built that mystery up about him. When he started losin’ his glamour and doin’ those concerts, he became more ordinary. That’s when they started publishing all the things about him. Then people realised that he was not a god of any sort, but he was just an extraordinary human bein’.”

Watch Dolly Parton cover Elvis’ ‘All Shook Up’ below. Introducing the song, Parton says: “God knows I ain’t no Elvis, there never will be another one.”