Dolly Parton is a Goddess

When I was a kid, I committed the album Love Songs to memory and badgered my parents to let me stay up late to see every finale of the CMA Awards ceremony because the Queen of Country, Dolly Parton, was always the designated closer. And for good reason. She is an unrivalled songwriter, an electrifyingly charismatic performer, and one of a handful of celebrities who seems to make friends with the most disparate and antipathetic people and be the more popular for it. I know of no other performer and pop cultural icon who could, in the same month, advertise in the Singing News (probably one of the more culturally conservative publications out there) and the Advocate (the gay People Magazine). Another way to illustrate this: on one hand, there’s Dollywood – Dolly Parton’s ultra-savvy, uber-country, down-home entertainment park (where, of course, the Kingdom Heirs, perform almost daily), geared primarily, though not exclusively, toward the traditional values crowd. On the other hand, there’s Dolly’s conspicuous efforts to “love everybody,” as she puts it so often – and unlike so many other people who toss off lines like that, she seems to mean it with uncommon sincerity. This would probably drive hard-core fundamentalists insane, but I’m not sure Dolly’s progressive tendencies are that widely known (yet): for instance, most of the folks over at the sogospelnews forums seemed genuinely shocked to discover that some gay Dolly fans were trying to organize a group event at Dollywood. If that shocked them, they’d be apoplectic to know she goes out of her way to reach out to gays and lesbians: In addition to advertising in the Advocate, Parton recently recorded a live performance with Melissa Etheridge. When Etheridge asked Parton if she supported same-sex marriage, Parton replied with typical aplomb: “Hell, yes. They ought to have to suffer like the rest of us.” That coat of many rainbow colors from her childhood was downright prescient, it seems.

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