The Story of Dolly Parton
The Story of Dolly Parton is the story of a wonderful lady who grew up in a poor family in the mountains of Tennessee. The family consisted of real hillbillies and several home burners, but also a sulfur preacher in the Pentecostal church.
She is a driven and rich businesswoman, but also an icon for gays and transgender people. She has no children of her own but has been married to the same man for 55 years.
She has been in many feature films and she has donated an awful lot of money to many good causes. She has distributed millions of books to children and she has contributed millions of kroner to the development of Moderna’s corona vaccine. She is also known for her looks, her big wigs, and her even bigger bust, but the main reason she is a world-famous superstar is that she is a songwriter of rank and one of the greatest female singers of the last 50 years.
This story also features a Soviet foreign minister, Cherokee Indians, the American Civil War, a bit of home burn, a long road trip, and Åse Kleveland.
This is the story of Dolly Parton herself.
Family and background
Dolly Rebecca Parton was born on January 19, 1946. She was born in a small wooden house on the riverbank in Pittman Center, Tennessee. The mother’s name is Avie Lee Caroline and the father is Robert Lee Parton Sr. Dolly is the fourth of a total of 12 children the two have together. The group of children consists of six boys and six girls.
Great Smoky Mountains
To understand Dolly Parton and her history and how the background and history have influenced the music, the lyrics and indeed how she manages her businesses, we need to look a little more closely at the geography and history of Tennessee and the villages where she grew up. This is a special region that has been through quite a bit in the last couple of hundred years.
Pittman Center is in the far east of Tennessee and this is a tiny place with something like 500 residents today. Pittman Center is located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, the mountain range that here forms the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. The Smoky Mountains are part of the larger Appalachian mountain range, which stretches from Alabama in the south and northeast all the way to Canada. Tennessee is one of the American southern states, in case anyone was in doubt that Dolly Parton is from the southern states. The peaks in the Smoky Mountains are not terribly high, but they are up to around 2,000 meters. The mountains are mostly covered with deciduous trees at lower altitudes and spruce trees further up.
The Smoky Mountains were originally the home of the Cherokee Indians, who lived in small towns and villages along the riverbeds. The Cherokees are among the classic Indian tribes, and are among those referred to as the so-called “five civilized tribes”. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Cherokee chieftain Sequoyah had developed his own written language and they had also written their own constitution. Strictly speaking, we no longer refer to them as Indians, but as Native Americans. In any case, the Cherokee are today the largest of these groups and count close to 300,000 members.
Hernan de Soto, the famous and infamous Spanish explorer, met the Cherokees in the Smoky Mountains as early as 1541. Later, the Cherokees traded with white traders and settlers, they sold a lot of furs and skins, but also Indian slaves they had kidnapped or taken as war booty from other tribes. The Cherokees sided with England in wars against France and Spain from the 17th century and were on the losing side during the American Revolution.
The Cherokees were not allowed to remain in their villages in the Smoky Mountains. As American settlers pushed westward from the East Coast and further inland in search of new land for new farms, the Cherokees were thrown out and pushed westward, where there were vacant and empty lands.
The road of tears
This eviction, this displacement is what is called the Trail of Tears in English, or the Road of Tears in Norwegian, and for the Cherokees, this misery began in 1832. They had to leave their homes and go west with their entire families, men, wives and children, and the slaves they had and which they used in agriculture, not unlike the large plantation owners elsewhere in the southern states. They probably took several thousand slaves with them when they moved west before ending up in Oklahoma. A few thousand Cherokees remained in the mountains of Smoky Mountains where they hid and tried to fend for themselves.
It is claimed that Dolly Parton and her family have a touch of Cherokee blood from those who stayed behind in the Smoky Mountains, but this has never been proven for sure, and it may just be an old family anecdote that has no basis in fact. certain is that her family has ancestry from the British Isles and there are traces back to Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales, and the name Parton means something like the pear garden, or the pear garden, perhaps, and if so it is perhaps not entirely unreasonable to assume that there is something Norwegian or Nordic in the linguistic origin of the name at least.
The American Civil War
Once we get to the American southern states, we cannot avoid the American Civil War, even though it ended about 80 years before Dolly Parton was born. The Civil War had a huge impact on Tennessee, which was the scene of many major battles and the local farmers constantly had their fields and fields destroyed. Tennessee was also a divided state, and the eastern parts, which is Dolly Parton’s home, voted against leaving the Union. They, therefore, did not want to break out and they did not want to join the Southern States but were in the minority in the state, which therefore ended up on what we in the rearview mirror of history must call the wrong side, perhaps especially morally, but also in the end militarily. The traces of the civil war are still here and we will return to this later.