Dolly Parton on coping in lockdown and her Christmas 2020 plans

Arielle Tchiprout
·6-min read
Photo credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Whether you’ve danced to Jolene, cried to Whitney Houston’s rendition of I Will Always Love You, or laughed through the film (and recent musical) 9 To 5, chances are your life has been touched by Dolly Parton. Now 74, the prolific singer-songwriter, actor and writer has no plans to slow down.

"I’m so inspired by life," she tells GH. "Every day is a new chance at something more. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, but do better at it."

No doubt Dolly’s zest for life is the secret to her continuing success. Born in Tennessee in 1946, she released her first solo album Hello, I’m Dolly in 1967 (the year after she wed husband Carl Dean), and went on to release 46 more. She’s the bestselling female country-music artist of all time, with more than 160m albums sold worldwide and 153 award wins. She has penned thousands of songs, many of which have been recorded by other artists. And to top it all off, she’s also a Hollywood actor and producer, known for her role in 9 To 5, and for helping create Netflix’s recent hit film Dumplin’ and series Heartstrings. Oh, and she also runs a theme park in Tennessee, called Dollywood!

Dolly has just released her first Christmas album in 30 years, A Holly Dolly Christmas, which features five new songs, including duets with Michael Bublé, Miley Cyrus and her brother, Randy Parton. And like a real Christmas angel, Dolly aims to spread some much-needed festive cheer.

"Well, it seems like everyone’s looking for some positivity, so it felt like the perfect time for a Christmas album," she says. "I wanted to make myself happy, make other people happy and just do something to make it a joyful Christmas."

In true Dolly style, she’s taking it one step further with a festive film on Netflix, which shares its name with one of the album’s songs, Christmas On The Square. She’s also been writing a book, Songteller, sharing the stories behind 150 of her best-loved songs, including Coat Of Many Colors and Just Because I’m A Woman.

Here she reveals how she’s dealt with the challenges of 2020, and her hopes for Christmas and beyond…

Coping with lockdown

"My husband, Carl, has not been in great health for a while, so I’ve been spending a lot of time at home anyway. I live on a beautiful farm in Nashville, so we thank God we’re fortunate to have so much space. I never felt trapped because my mind goes wherever I want it to; I can always go to dreamland in my head. I’m pretty self-contained and I love being at home with family. I don’t have kids, but I can only imagine what it’s like to have kids and grandkids and for them to be restless all the time! I have tried to write songs and make jokes to lighten people’s loads."

Learning to be patient

"I learn something from everything; especially during this time, I’ve had to learn more patience and pull back a little. I’ve been so inspired by all the people who are out there trying to keep everybody else’s heads above the water, as well as their own. I think we’re going to be better people after this is all behind us, I truly do."

Constantly creating

"I’ve actually been very productive this year, as I’ve had more time to do creative things. I always say I wake up with new dreams every day, and I really do! I’m in awe of everything, even with the craziness in our world right now. There’s never a time when I don’t feel like I can be more and better. Next year, I’m hoping to create even more good music and movies to uplift people."

Pride and joy

"I’m very fortunate that I’m still around, and that I’ve been able to accomplish so many things. It was always my dream as a child to be a singer, an entertainer and to be successful. And I’ve achieved all that, thank God, and thanks to my fans. But one of the things I’m most proud of is the Imagination Library, my non-profit charity through which we give books to children. My dad couldn’t read or write, so he helped me set it up. He got to live long enough to see it doing really well. We’ve given out around 145m books worldwide so far. I’m as proud of that as anything."

Mantras to live by

"My mother always said: 'To thine own self be true'. I have always tried to do that. I always say: 'Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.' You have to know exactly who you are, be true to yourself and stand by your principles and values. Don’t be impressed by other people – be your own hero. I also live by the scripture, 'with God, all things are possible'. I have such a positive attitude and I think that’s because my faith is so strong."

A jolly dolly Christmas

"Christmas means everything to me; it has always been my favourite holiday. I often dress up as Santa Claus and wear red, white and green throughout the Christmas holidays! I love to cook, so I wake up early on Christmas morning to cook while playing Christmas songs. Carl often buys me things like aprons or oven mitts. People laugh when they find out. They ask, 'What’s your husband getting you?' thinking it will be a diamond ring! But he just buys me what he knows I really want. He also writes me sweet poems, and I write him songs. I’ll still try to make Christmas special this year. I have a couple of sisters and several nieces and nephews who live nearby in Nashville, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to spend Christmas with a limited amount of family. Of course, we’ll be calling all our friends, Zoomin’ and FaceTimein’ the ones who we won’t get to see. I’m just hoping we’ll find a way to be together safely. All I want for Christmas this year is joy and peace of mind."

Dolly Parton’s album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, is out now.
Songteller: My Life In Lyrics (Hodder & Stoughton) by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann is out 17 November.


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