Two new books celebrate iconic singer Dolly Parton - GulfToday

Two new books celebrate iconic singer Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton 1

Singer Dolly Parton and the cover of her memoir ‘Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics.’ TNS

Gulf Today Report

An icon of country music and a pop culture sensation for decades, at 74 she still exudes a glamorous, glittering persona — writing and performing music, acting, running a thriving business empire and sharing its fruits.

She’s such a force of creativity and grace that former President Barack Obama was visibly shocked when Stephen Colbert asked him in a recent interview why he hadn’t given her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.


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“That was a s****-up,” Obama admitted. “I’m surprised. I think I assumed that she had already got one. That was incorrect. I’m surprised. She deserves one. I’ll call Biden.”

Two new books — one by Parton, one about her — offer insight into the phenomenon that is Dolly.

Parton’s public persona is so over-the-top and so beloved it’s easy to forget that her successful career is the result of what she considers her greatest talent: song-writing.

Dolly Parton 2 ‘She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs,’ by Sarah Smarsh. TNS

Her new book, "Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics," is a rich reminder. In it, Parton writes about the inspirations for more than 150 of her songs.

Laced with photographs, many from Parton’s personal archives, it adds up to a musical memoir of an extraordinary life, and a treat for her fans.

In an ode to Parton, author Sarah Smarsh brings a triple perspective to her book, "She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs."

Smarsh is a journalist and scholar of economic inequality. Like Parton, she grew up poor, in rural settings. And she is a flat-out Dolly fan.

Even though Parton starred in and wrote the theme song for the feminist movie "9 to 5," she has always shied away from the label “feminist.”

And her carefully contrived, hyper sensual appearance — which she says is inspired by the town prostitute whose looks dazzled her when she was a little girl — might seem at odds with the idea of empowering women.

Smarsh writes about that in the context of the many women in her own life whose fierce independence and self-reliance embodied feminism — but who wouldn’t have labelled themselves that way, either.

“She was, perhaps,” Smarsh writes of Parton, “a third-wave feminist born a generation early, simultaneously defying gender norms and reveling in gender performance before that was a political act. Country girls like me were watching.”

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