Dolly Parton is known as the Queen of Country Music. As a songwriter she has composed over 3000 songs; as a recording artists has an estimated $100 million in record sales, has topped the record charts repeatedly and won numerous awards including the coveted Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performances; as a film star she has been in several films including the blockbuster hit 9 to 5; and to top it all off, she has composed the score for the Broadway musical version of 9 to 5!
Dolly Parton was born and raised on a tobacco farm in Tennessee along with her 11 siblings in an environment she described as “dirt poor.” She was exposed to music at an early age through her grandfather’s church and began to perform for local radio and television stations by the age of nine. By age 11 she was featured at the Grand Ole Opry with Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her heart. Which is exactly what she did – she moved to Nashville the day after she graduated from high school in 1965 and began one of the most successful careers in the entertainment industry.
Dolly had an innate ability to write songs and her initial success came as a songwriter, writing two top-ten hits with her uncle Bill Owens during her early days in Nashville. She went on to record songs with some success, but her big break came when country entertainer Porter Wagoner offered her a regular spot on his weekly syndicated television program The Porter Wagoner Show. Together with Wagoner she had many hit songs. Throughout the 1970s she found continued success recording her own songs including, “Coat of Many Colors,” “My Tennessee Mountain Home” and her biggest hit of this period, “Jolene.” In 1974 her song, “I Will Always Love You,” written about her professional break from Wagoner, went to number one on the country music charts, and decades later became an international sensation when recorded by Whitney Houston.
In 1980 Dolly Parton got her first acting role in the film 9 to 5. She also wrote and recorded the theme song, which reached number one on the country, pop and adult contemporary charts, giving her a triple-number-one hit. In addition Dolly received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. The film also starred Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin and became a box office sensation. Today it is on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Funniest Films list and is the 20th highest grossing comedy film in America. The film spawned a television series which starred none other than Sally Struthers!
The themes and title for the original film were inspired by an organization that was formed to achieve economic justice for women in the workplace. 9 to 5 was established in 1973 by a group of office workers in Boston to talk about work related issues such as sexual harassment, work/family challenges and pay equity. From this beginning, 9 to 5 emerged as the national organization dedicated to putting working-women's issues on the public agenda. This non-profit organization has done ground-breaking research on issues affecting working women and has worked on the grassroots level to pass key legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Producer Robert Greenblatt, President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks and screenwriter Patricia Resnick, who wrote the original script for the film 9 to 5 approached Dolly to write the score for a musical version of the hit movie. Dolly “jumped at the chance,” undeterred by her inexperience in writing for Broadway. Parton said that writing the new songs for the musical came naturally to her when she realized that both Broadway and country songs are fundamentally similar because they both “are stories, driven by characters.” In April 2009, 9 to 5 the Musical opened on Broadway with new songs written by Parton. The show went on to earn 14 Drama Desk nominations (1 win), a Grammy Nomination for Best Song in a Musical and 4 Tony Award Nominations including Best Original Song.