The following is an excerpt from Sounds Like Nashville. Read the full article here.
For decades, Dolly Parton has been an American treasure and 2020 saw the country singer, revered entertainer and global icon further illustrating this designation. During a year when many struggled with natural disasters, job loss and a health crisis due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Parton has served as a constant ray of light at a difficult time.
In April, the singer donated $1 million to Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center to aid researchers studying COVID-19. By the end of November, it was reported that Moderna’s vaccine, funded in part by Parton’s contribution, is 94.5% effective against the coronavirus. Parton is no stranger to helping those in need. In 2016, after wildfires destroyed the area she grew up in Sevier County, TN, the singer hosted a telethon that raised over $13 million. She also donated $1,000 a month to each family left homeless by the wildfires. Giving back is inherent to Parton, who encourages others to do the same.
“I think we should all be givers, that’s what Christmas is all about,” Parton tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone from Music City. “It’s better to give than receive, but it’s just as important that once you get into a position to be able to help that you really should. It really helps a lot of people and it makes you feel good about yourself. I love being able to be in a position to help. There’s a scripture in the Bible that says, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ I always think about that. I’ve been given so much, so why not give back?”
Parton has given back much this year. In addition to donating to aid COVID-19 research, the 74-year-old launched a web series called Goodnight with Dolly, in which she read bedtime stories for children, and also shared music that offers hope to those struggling. “When Life Is Good Again” was released in May and has the singer promising to be “more in the moment when life is good again.” She penned the song with her longtime producer Kent Wells and says they wrote the song while she was working on her holiday album, A Holly Dolly Christmas.
She also teamed up with Christian artist Zach Williams for “There Was Jesus,” which earned the singer her first No. 1 song on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart. The song’s success followed another first for Parton, who received her first-ever No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart in 2019 for her collaboration with Swedish DJ/production duo Galantis for their remake of John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me.”
“I had a couple more [song] ideas and so I have more stuff that’s spiritual based and more about lifting people up,” Parton says. “I’ve been doing all these spiritual things, and that has lifted me up personally, getting to be involved with these other people that are doing all this uplifting work as well. Those just kind of fell in my lap. They weren’t planned at all. It came through the spirit. Working with other people on their songs has really been great. Knowing that we have touched so many people with those has really been uplifting to me.”