After achieving success as a songwriter, the Tennessee native released her debut album Hello, I'm Dolly in 1967. Since then, she has become a country music legend, garnering countless Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, Country Music Awards and has sold more than 100 million albums as a solo artist.
Her huge discography includes hits such as "9 to 5,” “Jolene,” and “I Will Always Love You,” which Whitney Houston famously covered in The Bodyguard. Parton’s original version of the latter, released in 1974 following the end of her professional partnership with mentor Porter Wagoner, has brought in millions of dollars in sales. She wrote the song after telling Wagoner she was leaving his show because she didn’t get a pay raise, starting her life as a boss who always demands what she’s worth.
It was such a hit that even Elvis Presley wanted to put out a version of the track, though Parton ultimately turned him down after his team told her, “Elvis don’t record anything unless we get half the publishing.”
“And I said, ‘Well this has already been a hit for me and this is in my publishing company and I can’t give you half of it’, and he said, ‘Well then we can’t do it,’” Parton told CNBC in 2016.
She recalled turning down Elvis as being one of “those first really hard business decisions I had to make,” but didn’t regret doing so. Parton later attributed her business-savvy skills to her father in a 2003 interview with Rolling Stone.
“Daddy was real smart when it came to knowing the value of a dollar and how to make a deal, whether it was a horse trade or whatever,” she told the publication.
With an electric sense of style and a signature hairdo, Parton’s other ventures include books, a clothing line, and her Dollywood theme park. Also, a celebrated actress and producer, Parton joined forces with Netflix to create a series of television films based on her songs titled Dolly Parton's Heartstrings.
In other words, she’s got multiple people writing her checks. Regardless of her net worth though, Parton doesn’t define being rich or poor by the number listed in one’s bank account.
“That’s a philosophy that my mother instilled in us,” Parton said in an interview with Vogue. “[Growing up] we were poor, but she’d say, ‘I don’t want to hear that. We are not poor, just because we don’t have money. We’re rich in attitude, we’re rich in spirit, we’re rich in love.’”