Dolly Parton and her 11 siblings shared a shack, and they hardly ever had the chance to bathe.
Even though he couldn’t read, her father provided for her and their family.
She maintains a modest attitude while giving away millions of dollars each year.
Dolly Parton has kept her modesty throughout her successful career as a musician, businesswoman, and philanthropist, even though she has accumulated significant fame and wealth. It shouldn’t come as a shock that success has followed her wherever she goes.
Parton can empathize with those who struggle to make ends meet because of her background in a large family. She has worked her way up to become one of the most powerful stars in Hollywood, but despite all of her success, she has never forgotten where she came from.
Dolly Parton poses for a portrait in 1955 in Nashville, Tennessee. | Source: Getty Images
Dolly Rebecca Parton, better known by her stage name, was welcomed into the world by her parents on Locust Ridge in Sevierville, Tennessee, on January 19, 1946. Her real name is Dolly Rebecca Parton. She was one of eleven children, and her family lived in a small cabin with only one bedroom.
Her father, Robert Lee Parton, was a sharecropper who had no education and worked in construction to supplement his income. He was literate and unable to read or write due to his lack of opportunity to receive an education.
The country legend was raised in a family that greatly focused on music, so he was frequently exposed to it throughout his childhood. Despite their difficult living conditions, they could find joy and connect with one another through singing.
Dolly Parton poses for a portrait in 1965 in Nashville, Tennessee. | Source: Getty Images
Performer Avie Lee Owens, Dolly Parton’s mother, was the one who first showed her daughter how to sing. She kept her busy with different kinds of music, like Elizabethan ballads and church hymns that had been in her family for a long time.
While this was going on, Parton’s grandfather, Jake Robert Owens, was serving as a minister and writing the song “Singing His Praise.” A number of Dolly Parton’s siblings developed an interest in music, and some participated in her family band.
In addition, Parton had a musically talented uncle named Sam Owens, who was also a singer-songwriter in his own right. When she was a little child, her uncle, who had a passion for music, was the first to see that she possessed the ability to become a famous musician one day.
Stella Mae, Cassie Nan, the twins Freida Estelle and Rachel Ann, Willadeene, David Wilburn, Coy Denver, Bobby Lee, Robert, and Larry are all Dolly Parton’s family members. Other siblings include Larry. Robert passed away in 2021 after a long and difficult battle with cancer, and Larry passed away shortly after birth.
Parton, the fourth of 12 siblings, frequently assisted her parents in caring for the younger children in the family. She and her family shared a small space under a roof.
Their log cabin only had one bedroom and one living room at the time, and there was neither electricity nor running water in the structure. To this day, the property has not been destroyed.
Parton has never been shy about expressing her poor roots or how these experiences shaped her perspectives on life. Because she was raised in a large family with few assets, she is quite familiar with the difficulties of being poor.
Dolly Parton beams in a publicity photo for her 1984 film “Rhinestone.”| Source: Getty Images
Parton focused on her youth in the mountains of rural Tennessee during an interview with The Guardian in 2016. The discussion took place in 2016, and Parton focused on the early memories that brought her the most happiness. In her words,
“Of course, not everything was perfect, but I prefer to remember the best of times.”
She recalled the days she spent with her brothers, singing at church, and accomplishing chores that she did not particularly enjoy doing. She also remembered the hilarious moments she had with her family and how much they laughed together.
Parton related how her brothers and sisters would always sing, and she would always try to get them to be her backup singers when she tried to pretend to be the lead singer on stage, but they were completely uninterested in doing so. Parton shared this story to demonstrate how she overcame their lack of interest.
Parton noted that her family’s modest home was always packed with her many siblings, which led to a lot of teasing and fighting among them. But no matter how crazy things got, they never stopped loving each other as a family.
She went on to say that because the cabin was so small, they spent most of their time hanging out outside because it was more pleasant for them. The space outside was used as an extra room for social activities like eating, watching entertainment, and playing games with friends.
She said she and her family were always grateful to have anything to eat and a roof over their heads. Even though it was not what they had hoped for, her parents stressed over and over again that other families had it far worse than they did. She was able to recall the following:
“We were poor, but I never felt poor.”
Despite coming from a low-income family, Parton became one of the most famous and well-known country music performers due to her drive and talent in the entertainment industry.
Growing up in poverty
Despite having happy memories of her youth, Parton noted that poverty meant having to endure trying conditions. With her family of 14, she practically lived in a hut and had limited access to basic needs.
She revealed that she was only eight years old when she first saw a toilet and bathroom in her aunt’s house and that she was fascinated by them in an interview with journalist Lawrence Grobel for Playboy magazine in March 1978.
Parton said that she and her siblings were afraid to use the toilet because they believed it would suck them in, making fun of how foolish and naive they were at the time. She remembered, “It was really weird.”
The Parton family did not have the luxury of taking a bath each day. They made their soap regularly, and on occasion, they would all get into the truck and go to the river to wash their clothing in the river’s waters.
Although there was a creek in the area, they chose to take their baths in the river because it served as a “big bath” for all of them to share. They would take turns washing each other’s hair and swimming together in the river while their homemade soap flowed down.
Parton made a joke about how unclean they used to be and claimed that it would have left a ring around the Little Pigeon River if they had bathed in it as they would in a bathtub. She compared the river to a bathtub. They would go through the rituals every summer by taking dips in the river.
The entire family would share a single pan of water during the colder months of the year to facilitate regular hand washing. Parton’s answer to Grobel’s question on the number of times she and her family would bathe during the winter season was as follows:
“Well, we bathed once a week whether we needed it or not, as the saying goes.”
When Parton was in high school, she realized the importance of regular baths. Because of the dirty habits of her younger siblings at bedtime, she would always wash her hair and take a bath before going to sleep. She revealed it.
“The kids peed on me every night. We slept three and four in bed. I would wash every night. And as soon as I go to bed, the kids would wet on me, and I’d have to get up in the morning and do the same thing.”
Unafraid to voice her thoughts on the matter, Parton noted that getting peed on could sound unclean to some people. Still, the urine provided a fantastic source of warmth during the winter months, even though it might sound unsanitary to some people.
She recalled how chilly it would get at home when she lived in the mountains and even stated that it was almost a pleasure to be peed on because the room was as chilly as the outside. She said this because the temperature inside was the same as the temperature outside. She stated that they would all get comfortable in bed together.
Giving Millions Away
Parton has described her family as content and rich in other ways despite their material poverty. She was modest since she had grown up, and even after making millions, she continued to help others in need, just like she had done for her family when she was younger. She stated:
“My family will always be my greatest love. Sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle, but there’s an element of family in everything I do.”
Parton stated that her family influenced her music and that her theme park, Dollywood, and one of its shows, the Dixie Stampede, were designed to foster family time and pleasure.
Dolly Parton attends the We Are Family Foundation event at Hammerstein Ballroom on November 5, 2019, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images
Forbes magazine placed Dolly Parton’s net worth in 2022 at an estimated $375 million, establishing her as a self-made millionaire. Her leading causes of financial success were her theme park and her ownership rights to her music publishing company.
She has control over more than 3,000 songs, one of which is the critically praised song “I Will Always Love You,” which she refused to give Elvis Presley in the 1970s to keep all of the credit for herself. When Whitney Houston covered the song in the 1990s, the move became profitable for all involved.
A publishing fee is also paid to Parton whenever one of her songs is sold, aired, or featured in a movie. According to Forbes, the combined value of her songs is approximately $150 million, and the magazine estimates that she has earned between $6 and $8 million in royalties.
However, the famous musician earned a massive fortune through the operations of Dollywood, which is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state of Tennessee. According to reports, it generates an annual revenue of $3 million.
In 1968, when the city was still known as Pigeon Forge, the country singer invested in the theme park. After some time, she gave it the name “Dollywood,” a pun on the word “Hollywood.” The park features both a hotel and a water park inside its grounds.
Doggy Parton, a play on the singer’s real name, is the name of a new company that Parton recently established. Her passion for animals served as the impetus for the creation of the business, which makes dog toys and clothing lines.
The things that happened to Dolly Parton when she was a child fostered in her the value of sharing her success with others. She is involved in several humanitarian and charitable projects and has given millions of dollars to those in need. She is also a musician and a successful businesswoman.
In 2016, Dolly Parton joined forces with a group of singers to help fund $13 million for the survivors of the wildfires that occurred in East Tennessee. These flames were responsible for the destruction of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in Tennessee.
Other well-known musicians performed in the “Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” concert. Chris Stapelton, Kenny Rogers, Lauren Alaina, Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Cyndi Lauper, and Chris Young are some of the musicians on this list.
After her niece got treatment for leukemia at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville in 2017, Parton decided to give the hospital one million dollars.
Parton not only helped those who were struggling to make ends meet as a result of natural disasters, but she also made a big contribution to the field of health by giving a generous donation of a substantial amount of money to a wide range of medical organizations.
In 2020, she made news when she gave $1 million to the cause of vaccine research during the COVID-19 epidemic, which affected people worldwide. Her work was an important contributor to the development of the Moderna vaccine.
In addition, Dolly Parton is well known for having spent her entire life working to encourage early literacy in children. She does this by running a program called Imagination Library, a non-profit organization that provides free books to over one million children every month.
Parton and her husband, Robert Lee, established a charitable foundation in 1995 to assist youngsters in becoming literate. Their motivation came from the fact that Parton’s father battled with illiteracy. It began in eastern Tennessee, but due to its growth, it can now assist children in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The literacy program has also been adopted in other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In 2018, when Parton was at the Library of Congress, she told the crowd there that the program had given out its 100 millionth book.
Parton had no idea that her campaign would be so successful when it first began; all she wanted to do was help her father and the community where she grew up. She cheerfully shared, “But then it just took its wings, and I guess it was meant to be.” “But then it just took its wings.”
Parton was also pleased to learn that her father felt a lot of satisfaction because he had made a significant contribution toward a noble cause. Before he passed away in the year 2000, he had the opportunity to witness the results of their labor.
In addition, her goals for the Imagination Library are extremely lofty and expansive. She said that she has lofty goals for her life, one of which is to donate one billion books throughout her career.
Even though she had a difficult childhood, Parton never lost sight of how significant the bonds of family and community are. She used her wealth to help other people by giving away millions of dollars every year to various charitable causes, like education, health, and relief efforts after natural disasters.
Her modest background instilled in her an appreciation for the value of hard work and determination, as well as the ability of music to bring people together. And as she thinks back on her life, she remembers the love, laughter, and joy that permeated the house where she spent her childhood and the family that was there for her at every turn and helped her succeed.
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