Dolly Parton’s name is synonymous with many things, such as her smash-hit “Jolene,” her feathery blond tresses, her nine Grammy Awards (she’s been nominated 49 times), and … an exorbitant amount of wealth? That’s right: The country music superstar has built a beyond-impressive net worth in her 50-plus-year career. Her fortune today is a far cry from her humble roots.
Parton was one of 12 children who grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains of Sevier County, Tenn. Though she and her family were poor, Dolly told NBC, “We were rich in things that money don’t buy. You know, like love and kindness and understanding.”
Parton’s country music career took off at age 19. Now in her seventies, the “9 to 5” star is still belting out the ballads, investing in causes close to her heart, and growing her enormous fortune. The queen of country’s net worth is higher than you might think. Let’s take a closer look.
'I Will Always Love You' made Dolly Parton millions
Whitney Houston took “I Will Always Love You” to the top of the charts in 1992 as part of the hit soundtrack for The Bodyguard, but it was Dolly Parton who originally wrote and recorded the power ballad in the seventies. “A lot of people say that’s Whitney’s song, and I always say, ‘That’s fine, she can have the credit, I just want my cash,'” Parton quipped in 2015 (via Today).
Owning the rights to “I Will Always Love You” was so important to Parton that she even turned down Elvis Presley’s request to sing her song because he reportedly wanted half the publishing rights in return. Parton told CNBC it was “one of those first really hard business decisions I had to make.”
Parton clearly made the right choice. According to The Heavy, she made about $10 million off the song in the ’90s. Houston’s rendition held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-setting 14 weeks. Parton’s original version also topped the country charts when it was released in 1974 and again when it appeared on the soundtrack for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982, per CNBC.
Of course, that was just one of some 700 songs Parton penned. She’s been nominated for two Academy Awards for her original songs: “9 to 5” from the film of the same name, and “Travelin’ Thru” from Transamerica. Altogether, Parton is ranked among the best-selling artists of all time.
Dollywood's economic impact is worth billions
Dolly Parton celebrated her 74th birthday in 2020, and the living legend’s earning potential is still sky-high. In 2017, Forbes ranked Parton as one of the highest-paid celebs, bringing in about $37 million in one year, thanks to a tour that “grossed mid-six figures per city” and an impressive real estate portfolio that includes her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
According to a 2017 study analyzed by the Times News, Dollywood supports more than 19,000 jobs, generates more than $118 million in state and local tax revenue, and has an economic impact of more than $1.5 billion. The park debuted a $137 million expansion in 2019, and yet the songstress has never even gone on the rides. In true Dolly fashion, she explained her reasoning: “With all my hair I got so much to lose, like my wig or my shoes. I don’t like to get messed up,” she told The New York Times. “I’m gonna have some handsome man mess it up, I don’t want some ride doing it.”
Parton’s collective talents have generated an incredible fortune. Celebrity Net Worth pegs her wealth at a staggering $600 million, and yet she seems determined to give it away.
Dolly Parton's charitable contributions help 'keep the faith'
Dolly Parton is as well known for her philanthropic endeavors as she is for her hit songs and iconic relationships. When Tennessee was ravaged by wildfires in 2016, Parton pledged to give $1,000 per month to families who lost their homes, NBC News reported.
Among her many charitable endeavors, the legend is best known for her Imagination Library program, founded in 1995 to promote literacy in her home state and around the world. Inspired by her father’s illiteracy, the organization began sending free books to local kids from birth to age 5, then expanded to include the entire state of Tennessee, and beyond.
“My daddy just loved it when all the little kids would call me ‘The Book Lady.’ That meant more to him than the fact that I had become a star and worked my butt off,” she said, per the library’s website. The organization has distributed more than 120 million books and counting. In April 2020, the book lady began a weekly YouTube show called “Goodnight with Dolly.” The living legend reads a children’s book in hopes of providing “a welcome distraction during a time of unrest…”
That same month, Parton pledged $1 million to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. to support research to find a cure for coronavirus. “Keep the faith,” she said.
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