Dolly Parton: Here I Am

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Portrait of Dolly Parton at the Holiday Inn in Chicago, Illinois, on 30 April 1977. (Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
Portrait of Dolly Parton at the Holiday Inn in Chicago, Illinois, on 30 April 1977. (Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)


4/5 Stars


In this documentary, the life, career and music of Dolly Parton are reflected in interviews with friends and companions and the artist herself, interlaced with clips of Parton's performances.


I'll be honest in admitting that I knew very little about Dolly Parton, her career, or her backstory until I stumbled upon the documentary Dolly Parton - Here I Am on Netflix one Saturday afternoon.

I reckoned I would watch a few minutes to see if it's exciting and found myself an hour-and-a-half later having completed the film. 

Initially released in 2019 by British director Francis Whately, it gives an in-depth look at the career of the 74-year-old singer, with archival footage, interviews with collaborators, and a sit-down interview with the icon herself. Sadly, there seems to have been very little hype around the film, not even an online trailer, which is such a shame because it's really a well-made and informative biographical documentary. 

If I wasn't a fan before, I'm one now. Dolly, who wanted fame since she first took to the stage at the age of 10, has skillfully and diligently laboured to build her career in an industry and at a time when men were very much in control. 

Her determination and belief in herself has resulted in not only incredible career milestones but also extremely successful business decisions that have paid off generously.

If you think Paris Hilton, who recently released her documentary This is Paris on YouTube, is the original queen of turning a ditsy blonde persona into an empire - think again. Dolly has been in the game much longer, and she knows precisely what she's doing.

While everyone focused on her external appearance including her glitzy outfits, full bosom, and extravagant make-up, she hustled hard to cement herself as an icon in the music industry. Which she's done with hits like I Will Always Love You, Jolene, Coat of Many Colours, and 9 to 5.

The film not only looks at Dolly's history and career, but also how she makes her business decisions, writes her hit songs, and selects which projects she is willing to take on or not.

There are many fascinating stories in the film, like the one about Elvis Presley wanting to cover the hit song I Will Always Love You. The song that Dolly wrote is based on her relationship with her manager Porter Wagoner, and she was over the moon with excitement when Elvis wanted in on it. But she turned down the King of Rock and Roll when he requested half of the publishing rights.

It was simply just not something she would even remotely consider, even if it meant saying no to Elvis himself. Of course, in 1992 Whitney Houston would cover the song in the film The Bodyguard and it became the worldwide hit we know today.

Another fascinating tale is the one behind the famous 9 to 5, which was the theme song to a film with the same title starring Dolly, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda. Dolly would only sign up for the movie if she could write the theme song for it. A decision that would later pay off big time when the song became a bigger hit than the film itself. While waiting to film her scenes as sweet Southern secretary Doralee Rhodes, Dolly wrote the song by clacking her acrylic fingernails together to create the beat - which sounded like a typewriter. Her acrylic nails are even listed as an instrument in the credits of the song.

There are many more fascinating facts about Dolly in the film, but what struck me most about her is the excellent support base she has over a wide-ranging demographic. From conservative country folk to wonderfully flamboyant drag queens – everybody loves Dolly, and she loves them all right back. 


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