Magazine May 17, 2021, Issue

The Impossible Genuineness of Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs, by Sarah Smarsh (Scribner, 208 pp., $22); Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann (Chronicle Books, 380 pp., $50)

Dolly Parton — singer, songwriter, philanthropist, and all-round American treasure — was born in 1946, the fourth of twelve children, and then raised on much love and little else in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. As a teenager, Parton recalls, she saw a woman who people said looked like trash, but who she decided was “the most beautiful woman in the county.” Parton would see her, all dolled up with “her big dyed hair, her bright red nails, her feet squeezed tight into her high heel shoes, and all paint and perfume,” and, behind her family’s back, she

This article appears as “Dolly’s Heart” in the May 17, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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