What tragic things about Dolly Parton does everyone just ignore? If there’s one figure in the entertainment industry who’s truly become an icon over the years, it’s her. After all, who doesn’t jam out to “Jolene” or “I Will Always Love You” when they’re deep in their feelings? The latter is practically the most famous ballad out there, and Parton is the reason the song exists in the first place. To put it lightly, Parton is a huge figure in the country music industry, and she’s been wildly successful for decades, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
According to PBS, Parton didn’t waste any time when it came to pursuing her career, as right after she graduated high school, she moved to Nashville to give singing a go. After that, it didn’t take long before she was discovered, and began starring on a television show. Ever since then, Parton has celebrated many triumphs in life, all the while sporting her signature big hair and stand-out makeup.
But as glamorous as her life is now, it wasn’t always, as Dolly Parton has a tragic, real-life story. And it probably shouldn’t be ignored, honestly.
Dolly Parton tragically grew up in poverty
Dolly Parton has undergone a stunning transformation. Though many people may see her — with her big hair, stunning makeup, and fancy clothes — and just assume she’s never had money problems, that’s far from the truth. In fact, Parton grew up with 11 siblings in the Smoky Mountains, and her family was seriously impoverished.
In a 1978 interview with Larry Grobel, Parton revealed that her family was so poor, she struggled to stay clean. “We bathed once a week once a week whether we needed it or not, as the saying goes,” she recalled. Additionally, in an essay published by Guideposts, Parton explained that her life growing up was far from charmed, but her family made it work. “Finding a way to put everything to good use, that was a way of life in the Smokies,” she wrote. “It wasn’t just about taking care of what we’d been given. It was about survival, about trying every day, every minute, to make things a little bit better.”
As tragic as it sounds, Parton doesn’t regret her childhood in poverty, as it helped shape her into the strong woman she is today.
As a child, Dolly Parton tragically struggled to stay warm
Though Dolly Parton is southern through and through, that didn’t shield her entirely from the elements. Sure, the south might not get quite as cold as places in the northern United States, but Parton still experienced some freezing nights, as her family’s poverty meant they couldn’t always keep warm.
As Parton wrote in an essay for Guideposts, “It was so cold the day I came into the world that when the kitchen in our one-room cabin was mopped, the water left a film of ice on the floor.” And in an interview with Larry Grobel, Parton explained that when her siblings wet the bed, she actually kind of welcomed it. “That was the only warm thing we knew in the wintertime,” she revealed, after Grobel asked if she got up to wash herself. “That was almost a pleasure to get peed on because it was so cold. Lord.” That’s on top of the fact that she and her siblings slept bundled up, as it was just as cold inside as it was out. Brrrr!
If that tragedy doesn’t show you just how far Parton has come, nothing will.
Tragically, Dolly Parton has lost more than one sibling
Although Dolly Parton grew up with a whopping 11 siblings, she still had close relationships with many of them. So when she had to say goodbye to one of her brothers far too soon, it was seriously tragic: Larry Parton passed away when he was only four days old back in 1955, according to Fox News. Naturally, Parton was heartbroken, as she was especially close to this baby. “There is a lot of heartache and stuff that goes on with that,” she shared.
Then, in 2018, the singer lost another another sibling, Dolly Parton’s brother Floyd Estel Parton, when he tragically passed away at the age of 61. Dolly and Floyd were especially close, too, as he’d been a songwriting partner of hers for years. “Dolly, and the entire Parton Family, wish to thank everyone for their kindness,” the singer shared in a statement on Twitter. “Yesterday, we laid our sweet baby brother to rest.” The statement added that his life, though it might have been cut short, was full of “love and beautiful songs.” We’re so sorry for your losses, Dolly.
Dolly Parton has tragically contemplated taking her own life
As glamorous as her life might look from the outside, Dolly Parton has gone through some seriously tragic times. According to the book, Dolly on Dolly, Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton, one of those tough times lead her to contemplate ending her life.
In one of the interviews compiled in the tome, Parton described a period in the ’80s when she was severely depressed; at that point, she had struggled with both heartache and her weight. One night, the pain led her to pick up the gun she owned (for home security purposes) and consider taking her life — but then her dog, Popeye, interrupted her. “The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality [and] I suddenly froze,” Parton said. “I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God.”
Having her life saved by her dog is yet another way in which Parton’s life has proved far more heartbreaking than you might have assumed.
Both of Dolly Parton’s parents tragically have passed away
Given that Dolly Parton is the true epitome of a Cinderella story, she’s faced some of the tragedies that you’d expect. Still, that doesn’t make the fact that both of Parton’s parents have passed away any less heartbreaking. And while everyone has to eventually come to terms with the fact that their parents will likely pass away before them, it’s still tragic.
In 2001, on a Sunday in November, Parton’s father, Robert Lee Parton, died at the Baptist Hospital of East Tennessee in Knoxville, according to CMT. Then, in 2003, CMT reported that Parton’s mother, Avie Parton, passed away on Friday, December 5. Both of those deaths must have been hard on Parton, but seeing as she was especially close to her father, it wouldn’t be surprising if that death hit her particularly hard.
It’s not easy to lose a parent, especially for Parton, who’s already had so much loss in her life. Perhaps it’s not so easy being Dolly Parton for a day after all.
Dolly Parton tragically never had kids
Over the years, Dolly Parton has remained child-free, a choice that some of her fans may have questioned. However, not having kids wasn’t always the plan for Parton and her husband; it appears as though the two tragically weren’t able to start a family. “My husband and I, when we first got married, we thought about if we had kids, ‘What would they look like? Would they be tall because he’s tall? Or would they be little squats like me?'” she mused in an interview with The Guardian. She added that if she’d had a daughter, she would have named her Carla.
But as time went on, Parton came to realize that children just weren’t in the cards for her. “We talked about it, and we dreamed it, but it wasn’t meant to be,” she continued.
While it may disappoint fans that Parton never had children, she feels the decision was meant to be. “Now that we’re older? We’re glad,” Parton added, with the caveat, “I would have been a great mother, I think.” But because she would have had to sacrifice so much, it all worked out in the end.