If you’re not convinced after 2020 that Dolly Parton is a national treasure, I will worry about you. When the lockdowns first started, this lifelong champion of literacy, who has given away literally hundreds of millions of books to kids who need them started posting YouTube videos where she reads bedtime stories to kids who may be stuck at home. (My kids know her best as The Book Lady from YouTube; when I played them “Jolene” and said it was The Book Lady singing, their jaws dropped.) Then, we got word that she’d donated a million dollars to help find a vaccine to help end the pandemic, which appears to have paid off. Former President Barack Obama admitted this year that not giving Dolly Parton a Presidential Medal of Freedom while he was in office was “a screw up. I assumed that she had already got one.”
And, of course, she sang. She moved Stephen Colbert to tears after singing him a folk song. And she’s got a whole new album of Christmas songs, and a whole new Christmas movie, “A Holly Dolly Christmas.” Maybe we’re finally realizing we all live in Dolly Parton’s world and that is a good thing?
I grew up hearing Dolly on the radio, of course, just as she was crossing over onto the pop charts. One of my dad’s favorite songs was her version of “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You.” Me, I will always choose “Headlock On My Heart,” where Dolly somehow falls in love with Hulk Hogan.
It was around this time that Dolly made a Christmas album with another crossover star, Kenny Rogers (there’s also a TV special where they play Santa and Mrs. Claus!) On this album you’ll find a very Dolly holiday track called “Hard Candy Christmas” where she sings about having a hard time but choosing to go forward being awesome anyway. The song starts with a list of things she might do to get her groove back. “Maybe I’ll dye my hair,” she sings. Or “maybe I’ll just get drunk on apple wine.” Somewhere in there. She will not deny the bad feelings, but she also won’t wallow in them. At least not without making something special out of it.
Go forth and fnd yourself some holiday cheer, the way Dolly Parton would.