“I understand people having to make themselves known and felt and seen,” Parton, 74, says about the Black Lives Matter movement. “And of course, Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!”
Parton goes on to express the importance of taking action when realizing something is a “problem” -- like when she became aware that the formerly named Dixie Stampede ride at her Dollywood theme park was offending some people, due to “Dixie” being associated with the Confederacy. The ride is now called The Stampede.
“There’s such a thing as innocent ignorance, and so many of us are guilty of that,” she explains. “When they said ‘Dixie’ was an offensive word, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to offend anybody. This is a business. We’ll just call it The Stampede.’"
"As soon as you realize that [something] is a problem, you should fix it," she continues. "Don’t be a dumbass. That’s where my heart is. I would never dream of hurting anybody on purpose.”
Like all theme parks, Dollywood has been immensely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The park, where Parton has the title “Dreamer-in-Chief,” normally attracts more than 3 million visitors each year.
“We certainly are not going to have a great year this year,” Parton says. “Hopefully by coming back, we’ll pick up some stuff that we’ve lost. All of the things that I’m involved in are on hold, even my production companies and the movies -- everything [took] a big hit. But I still believe, still trust God, and I’m still hoping for the best.”
The singer and actress tells Billboard that business ventures like Dollywood reflect the importance of artists having “something to fall back on if things don’t work out the way they’d hoped.”
However, more than five decades since leaving Nashville on a bus to follow her showbiz dreams, Parton doesn’t appear to need anything to fall back on. Every morning she and her manager go through a list of up to 50 business opportunities and decisions.
She will release a new album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, on Oct. 2 -- featuring duets with goddaughter Miley Cyrus and Michael Bublé -- as well as an accompanying holiday movie, Christmas on the Square.
And her catalog continues to thrive, with BMI awarding her a plaque celebrating 10 million radio and public performances of “I Will Always Love You” in July. Parton released the track in 1974 (long before Whitney Houston made a GRAMMY-winning hit of it in 1992), after which Elvis Presley wanted to record the track. Influenced by her business-savvy father, Parton turned down the offer after Presley’s manager insisted he would get half of the publishing.
“That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do because I loved Elvis,” Parton says. “Even though my daddy didn’t get an education, my daddy was really smart in making deals and bargaining and how he raised a family like he did.”
"That was my most important copyright at the time. If it had been a new song, I might have considered it,” she continues, before adding, “He would have sung it great. Can you imagine Elvis singing ‘I Will Always Love You?’”