When people think of Dolly Parton, her “backwoods Barbie” image is often the first thing that comes to mind.
It’s easy to forget that she’s one of the greatest country singers and songwriters of all time.
The numbers speak for themselves: a record 41 top 10 country albums, 46 Grammy nominations and hundreds of songs including “9 to 5,” “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You,” which was a monster hit for Whitney Houston as well as Dolly herself.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Parton has acted on TV and in movies, owns a production company, has her own theme park and started Imagination Library, which delivers free books to children. Parton is now on her biggest North American tour in more than 25 years, supporting a new 2-CD compilation of her greatest hits and a few new songs called “Pure & Simple.”
amNewYork spoke with the music icon, who is performing in Queens on Saturday.
Between music, movies, the theme park, fashion and philanthropy, is there anything you haven’t accomplished that you dream about doing?
I want to do more of the same things I’m doing, just get better and better at it. I do want to produce some really wonderful things on TV. I would love to do a series, maybe a couple of series — things based either on my songs or possibly do my life story as a series. I’m still talking about one day trying to get my life story on Broadway as a musical.
What is your favorite song to sing live?
My favorite song and my favorite song to sing are two separate things. [The autobiographical] “Coat of Many Colors” is my favorite song. I’ve often said that because it’s more than a song. “I Will Always Love You” [to sing] because every singer loves to have a ballad that starts out slow and has emotion, and then you can sing your guts out. ... When [Whitney Houston] had such a big hit, there was a controversy that she and I didn’t get along. Well, we did. We didn’t even know each other. I sent her roses. I thanked her like you wouldn’t believe when it was such a big hit. People were saying it’s Whitney Houston’s song, and I always joked and said, “Look, she can have the credit as long as I get my cash.”
You lived in New York for a while. What are some of your favorite memories of the city?
Actually I had an apartment there; I never lived in New York. I would go up for a week or so at a time, go to the theater and go to dinners ... When I had the apartment, I’d bring my family and friends up a lot of times and I’d show them all around New York. ... All the typical stuff. It was all fun because I’m just a hillbilly in the city. I’d enjoy going to the museums. It was a big deal. It still is when I get a chance to spend any time there.
What do you see as the secret of your success?
I work hard. I always said I’ve got more guts than I’ve got talent. But hopefully I’ve had enough talent to kind of keep me going. I just love what I do, and I think I have a good attitude about it. I think a big part of it is just being constant about it, never losing momentum. It’s like when people say, “Dolly’s made a comeback,” I thought, “Well, where’d I go?” ... . I just enjoy every part of my career and I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to do so much. I started out with the songwriting, which is still my favorite, and the singing. I love to perform, love doing the movies. Now I love working in television. ... I’ve just enjoyed it all. I want to continue doing it.