Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley were ‘kin,’ the country queen once said. Not literally, but they are linked through karmic circumstances. Both grew up poor in the rural South, both found success at a young age, and both struggled with that fame.
“I always felt that we were kin,” she told Playboy in a 1978 interview, a year after The King’s death. “I feel like I know exactly how he was. Every time he’d come in town, even if I was home, I just wouldn’t go, somethin’ always kept me from goin’. There were other people I liked to hear sing better, but there was nobody that I ever related to more.”
The new book Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton compiled some of Parton’s best interviews from her six-decade-long career.
“He was very loving, very emotional, very sensitive, very giving, very humble, thankful, grateful,” she said in that interview. “I always felt that he was totally in awe of his own success, and he didn’t quite understand why he had been so chosen and why he was such an idol.”
You could say the same of Parton. She grew up dirt poor in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains but climbed her way out via the Billboard charts. And like Elvis, she didn’t just pull herself out of poverty. She brought her family and friends with her.
That’s a lot of responsibility to put on yourself in an industry famous for consuming and discarding talent freely.
“I know who I am, I know what I can and can’t do, and I know what I will and won’t do,” Parade magazine quotes her as saying. “I know what I’m capable of, and I don’t agree to do things that I don’t think I can pull off.”
Dolly Parton Talks About Her Guiding Principles
“I knew early on that I was going to walk that road until God told me to stop,” Parton said. “And I’m still walkin’ it and he ain’t said nothing to me about quitting yet.”
That includes not having children. Parton said she has no regrets about not having kids. Even if it wasn’t a choice, it just wasn’t in the cards for her and her husband, Dean.
“I would have been a great mother, I think,” the country legend admitted. “I would probably have given up everything else. Because I would have felt guilty about that, if I’d have left them [to work, to tour]. Everything would have changed. I probably wouldn’t have been a star.”