Despite the fact that she has amassed massive fame and fortune, Dolly Parton has remained humble in her stellar career as a musician, businesswoman, and philanthropist. Not surprisingly, success has followed her down the road.
As someone who grew up in a large family, Parton understands the struggles of poverty. She is now a highly influential Hollywood star, and despite her achievements, she has never forgotten her humble beginnings.
The music superstar, whose real name is Dolly Rebecca Parton, was welcomed by her parents on January 19, 1946, in Sevierville, Tennessee, at Locust Ridge. He was born in a one-bedroom cabin. He had 11 siblings.
Robert Lee Parton, his father, was a sharecropper who could not read and supplemented his income by working in construction. He could not read or write due to lack of access to education.
Growing up, the country legend, raised in a musically oriented family, was constantly surrounded by music. Despite their difficult life circumstances, they found joy and connection through singing.
Parton’s mother, Avie Lee Owens, was an artist who taught her daughter to sing. He played different music for his daughter, such as church songs and Elizabethan ballads that had been in his family for generations.
Meanwhile, Parton’s grandfather, Jake Robert Owens, was a minister and composer of the hymn “Singing His Praise.” Several of Parton’s siblings took an interest in music, and some worked in their family band.
Parton also had an uncle named Sam Owens, a musician and singer-songwriter in his own right. Her uncle loved music and was the first person to notice that she had the potential to become a famous musician as a child.
Parton’s siblings include Stella Mae, Cassie Nan, twins Freida Estelle and Rachel Ann, and Willadeene, David Wilburn, Coy Denver, Bobby Lee, Robert and Larry. Robert died in 2021 after a battle with cancer, while Larry died as a newborn.
Being the fourth oldest among 12 siblings, Parton frequently helped her parents care for the younger children. He lived with his family under a small roof.
At the time, the log cabin had only a bedroom and a living room, and there was no running water or electricity. The property still stands to this day.
Parton has always been open to talking about her humble beginnings or how they influenced her outlook on life. She comes from a large family with limited resources, so she is familiar with the challenges of being poor.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, Parton recalled her childhood in the mountains of rural Tennessee. He concentrated on the early memories that brought him the most joy. She said:
“Of course not everything was perfect, but I prefer to remember the best times.”
He remembered the days he spent with his brothers, singing in church and doing chores he didn’t like very much. He also remembered the tons of laughs he shared with his family.
Parton commented on how her brothers and sisters constantly sang and how 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 didn’t show any interest.
Their small house, Parton recalled, was always full of her siblings, leading to much teasing and bickering. Yet despite the chaos, they always stuck together as a family.
She added that they spent a lot of time outside because the cabin was too small for her and her siblings comfortably. The outdoor space served as an extension for sharing meals, entertainment, and games.
Parton said her family had been grateful to have food and a roof over their heads. It wasn’t exactly what they wanted, but their parents were quick to emphasize that there were other families who suffered more than they did. She remembered:
“We were poor, but I never felt poor.”
Despite her family’s modest beginnings, Parton’s passion and musical talent would eventually lead her to become one of the most successful and beloved country music performers of all time.
childhood in poverty
Parton shared that despite having fond memories of her childhood, growing up poor meant living in difficult conditions. He lived in a shack with his family of 14. They had limited access to basic necessities, such as bathing opportunities.
In a Playboy magazine interview with journalist Lawrence Grobel in March 1978, she shared that she was only eight years old when she first saw a toilet and bathroom in her aunt’s house and was fascinated by them.
Laughing at how innocent and ignorant they were back then, Parton shared that she and her siblings were afraid to use the bathroom, thinking it would suck them in. “It was really weird,” he recalled.
Bathing every day was not a luxury for Parton and her family. They often made their own soap and sometimes got in the truck and drove to the river to wash in its waters.
There was a creek near where they lived, but the river was their favorite bathing spot, as it was like a “big bath” for everyone. They would swim together and wash their hair while their homemade soap flowed down the river.
Parton recalled telling a joke about how dirty they were, stating that he would have left a ring around the Little Pigeon River, and comparing his river bath to a “bathtub”. Bathing in the river was a summer ritual for them.
During the winter, the whole family would have a bowl of water to wash as much as possible. When Grobel asked Parton how many times she and her family would bathe in the winter season, Parton replied:
“Well, we bathed once a week whether we needed it or not, as the saying goes.”
Bathing became more important to Parton when she got to high school. He bathed every night due to his younger siblings’ unsanitary behaviors at bedtime. She revealed:
“The kids urinated on me every night. We slept three at a time in bed. I washed myself every night. And as soon as I went to bed, the kids urinated on me and I had to get up in bed.” tomorrow and do the same”.
Not afraid to share her thoughts on the matter, Parton explained that while peeing on herself might sound unsanitary to some, she thought urine was her source of heat in the winter.
Living in the mountains, he remembered how freezing it was at home and even said that it was almost a pleasure to be pissed on because the room was as cold as the outside. She said everyone would bundle up and go to bed.
giving away millions
Despite her poverty, Parton has described her family as happy and wealthy in other ways. Growing up made her modest, and after earning millions, she never stopped caring for people in need, like her family did some time ago. She commented:
“My family will always be my greatest love. Sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle, but there is a family element to everything I do.”