Sunday, January 5, 2020

Dolly Parton, 50 Years of Creative Mastery

Welcome back after our holiday break. I get the honors of ringing in the new year with one of the first Do Some Damage posts of 2020, and I thought I’d start the year off right by talking about something just about everyone can agree on.
Dolly Parton.
Yes, the same Dolly Parton whose first album was released in 1967. The same one who starred in 9 to 5 in 1980. The same one who wrote “I Will Always Love You,” which hit Number One twice and later became one of the top-selling singles of all time. She’s never stopped singing, composing, or acting—but it seems like lately, she’s everywhere.

Dolly Parton's America
I’ve been riveted by Dolly Parton’s America, a podcast hosted by a young Tennessean who wondered how it is that a decidedly Southern, bewigged, seventy-something musician can draw together fans who range from church-going Baptists to LGBTQ couples, from college graduates to high school dropouts.
Host Jad Abumrad and producer Shima Oliaee do a good job with this over the nine-episode series (the last episode dropped just this past week). They address topics like how she refuses to be drawn into politics, the removal of the word “Dixie” from her Stampede dinner theater show, her Dollywood theme parks, and whether she considers herself a feminist (that topic is in the first episode, “Sad Ass Songs.”) 
They also delve into three of her biggest successes and their cultural impact with individual episodes on the movie 9 to 5 and the songs “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You.” (Side note and blow-your-mind-trivia tidbit: Dolly wrote those two songs on the same day. Most ordinary creative genuises would count themselves lucky to write two such masterpieces in their entire careers.)
I’ve been talking to anyone who’ll listen about the podcast, and some get it confused with the other Dollyverse venture currently playing. Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings is an anthology series on Netflix that takes the inspiration for each episode from one of her songs. Dolly also appears.
Image result for ultimate dolly  parton
A greatest hits album. Not definitive, but a good place to start.
It’s a fine series, if a little too Lifetime-ish for my tastes. Which leads me back to the podcast—which is definitely journalistic enough for my tastes. One reason I’m enjoying it so much is because it focuses on Dolly as a writer and as a businesswoman.
And it seems to me that people in any kind of creative business would be smart to pay attention to someone as savvy as she is (and who has the talent to back up every thing she does). Dolly turned herself into a brand before brands were a thing. She’s been teaching a master class on the subject for more than 50 years, and we would do well to pay attention.

No comments: