On This Day: Dolly Parton Awarded Living Legend Medal by U.S. Library of Congress in 2004

by Madison Miller
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Many fans of Dolly Parton recognize her as a living legend, but in 2004 the U.S. Library of Congress happened to agree and made it official.

On April 14, 2004, she receives the Living Legend Medal from the Library of Congress. This is the most prestigious award that someone in America receives for cultural, scientific, and social contributions.

Working to the Living Legend Award

James H. Billington awarded Parton the honor in Washington D.C.

According to Parton’s site, he stated, “Dolly Parton has made an indelible mark on pop culture. Her contributions to crossover music, her ability to give voice to women’s issues and the retention of her early Appalachian roots all stand as tribute to the artistry, heart and soul that Dolly brings to all she does.”

Dolly Parton has paved a trail for herself in pop culture. Along the way, she has impacted artists and the general public.

She started off by singing about her experience growing up in the Appalachian Mountains as the daughter of a very poor sharecropper. Dolly Parton wrote songs like “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy” and “Coat of Many Colors.” Her uncle, Bill Owens, who recently passed away, gave her a guitar growing up as part of the family of seven children. She had started her career in music at only 10 years old. Her earliest recorded song was “Puppy Love” when she was only 12.

After her breakthrough single, “Dumb Blonde,” Parton went on to be a worldwide success. Songs like “That Last Thing on My Mind” with Porter Wagoner and then “Jolene,” “Here You Come Again,” “Starting Over Again,” and”Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You” all slowly influenced her sound and impact.

Besides being a country music star, Parton has used her influence to better other people’s lives.

Dolly Parton Imagination Library

For instance, Dolly Parton’s most notable charity program over the years is her Imagination Library. She started the program back in 1995. Her goal was to improve the literacy of the children growing up where she did in East Tennessee.

Her inspiration to start the organization partially is due to the fact that her father was unable to read and write. While it started in Tenessee, the program is now available in five countries. It has provided over 155,000,000 books to children.

“When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer. The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world,” Dolly Parton said, according to the Imagination Library site.

Parton Vaccine Efforts

In addition, Parton has supported United Way and the Save the Music Foundation over the years. She has also donated items to charity and participated in a Make-a-Wish program. Parton has donated time and money to animal rights groups and worked with HIV/AIDS charities. She launched the My People Fund and the Dollywood Foundation. In addition, Dolly Parton has also donated to the Monroe Carell Jr. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Most recently, Parton donated $1 million to help fund research for the coronavirus vaccine. She got her first dose of the vaccine and publically shares it to encourage others to do the same. Parton helped fund Moderna.

“So I just wanted to say to all you cowards out there, don’t be such a chicken squat. Get out there and get your shot,” she said during the process.

Truly a living legend.

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