Celebrity these days is an ephemeral thing. But genuine stardom? That’s forever. Dolly Parton has been a star for more than four decades, conquering the worlds of music (country, bluegrass and pop), film and even Broadway. Though she turns 66 later this month, she shows no signs of slowing down, coming off her Better Day tour to promote her new film, Joyful Noise. Parton talked to American Way about her storied career and the state of country music.
American Way: Tell us about your new film, Joyful Noise.
Dolly Parton: It’s about a church that’s going through some hard times. My husband, the choir director, is played by Kris Kristofferson, and he dies early on. My character thinks she should take over the choir. Queen Latifah plays Vi Rose, who’s been in the choir for years. Some folks think she should lead the choir, so that creates a love/hate relationship between us. We compete with some of the great gospel choirs around the country, and it’s got music written by Mervyn Warren, who wrote the music for Sister Act 2 and The Preacher’s Wife.
AW: You’ve been called the Queen of Country Music. How do you feel about the state of country music today?
DP: I’m just thankful that country music is still around. I’ve seen it change colors so many times, I know all the faces of it. I think we’ve got some wonderful artists today. I think we will always have that old traditional country music that I love so much, and hopefully I’ll always be a part of that.
AW: You’ve seen a lot of career ups and downs. What lessons have you learned about longevity?
DP: When you’re in it, you don’t know what kind of impression you’ll make or what kind of legacy you’re going to leave behind. Now that I’m older, I reflect back and I think how blessed I’ve been. Even though they say it’s hard work, I believe there’s a certain amount of divine luck to it.
AW: You’ve got such an engaging personality. Where does that inner light come from?
DP: I ask God every day to let me be a light and to let me shine. I’m certainly no angel, but if I don’t get to heaven, I would at least like to have directed some other people there.
AW: What are your feelings as you look back over your first 50 years in the business?
DP: I don’t want it to ever end. Honestly, I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to last so long and make a good living at what I love to do.