Today, I’m doing doing Dolly Parton Part Three, and I hope I can finish it before midnight, for if I don’t, then I’ll be done by tomorrow.
1976–1986: Pop transition
Parton in 1977
From 1974 to 1980, she consistently charted in the country Top 10, with eightsingles reaching number one. Parton had her own syndicated television varietyshow, Dolly! (1976— 77) During this period, many performers, including RoseMaddox, Kitty Wells, Olivia Newton-John, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadtcovered her songs. Her siblings Randy and Stella both received recording contracts of their own. During this period, Parton began to embark on a high-profilecrossover campaign, attempting to aim her music in a more mainstream direction andincrease her visibility outside of the confines of country music. In 1976, shebegan working closely with Sandy Gallin, who served as her personal manager forthe next 25 years. With her 1976 album All I Can Do, which she co-produced withPorter Wagoner, Parton began taking more of an active role in production, andbegan specifically aiming her music in a more mainstream, pop direction. Her firstentirely self-produced effort, New Harvest … First Gathering (1977 ),highlighted her pop sensibilities, both in terms of choice of songs— the album contained covers of the pop and R&B classics “My Girl“ and “Higher and Higher“—and production. Though the album was well received and topped the U.S.country albums chart, neither it nor its single “Light of a Clear Blue Morning“made much of an impression on the pop charts.
After New Harvest‘s disappointing chart performance, Parton turned to high-profilepop producer Gary Klein for her next album. The result, 1977‘s Here You ComeAgain, became her first million-seller, topping the country album chart andreaching number 20 on the pop chart. The Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil-penned titletrack topped the country singles chart, and became Parton‘s first top-ten singleon the pop chart (# 3). A second single, the double A-sided “Two Doors Down“/“It‘sAll Wrong, But It‘s All Right“ topped the country chart and crossed over to thepop Top 20. For the remainder of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, many of hersubsequent singles moved up on both charts simultaneously. Her albums during thisperiod were developed specifically for pop-crossover success.
With Carol Burnett, 1980
In 1978, Parton won a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance forher Here You Come Again album. She continued to have hits with “Heartbreaker“,(1978) “Baby I‘m Burning“ (1979) and “You‘re the Only One,“ (1979) all of whichcharted in the pop Top 40 and topped the country chart. “Sweet Summer Lovin‘“(1979) became the first Parton single in two years to not top the country chart(though it did reach the Top 10). During this period, her visibility continued toincrease, with multiple television appearances. A highly publicized candid interview on a Barbara Walters Special in 1977 (timed to coincide with Here You Come Again‘s release) was followed by appearances in 1978 on Cher‘s ABC television special, and her own joint special with Carol Burnett on CBS, Carol and Dolly in Nashville.
Parton served as one of three co-hosts (along with Roy Clark and Glen Campbell) onthe CBS special Fifty Years of Country Music. In 1979, Parton hosted the NBC special The Seventies: An Explosion of Country Music, performed live at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., and whose audience included President Jimmy Carter.Her commercial success grew in 1980, with three consecutive country chart number-one hits: the Donna Summer-written “Starting Over Again“, “Old Flames Can’t Hold aCandle to You“, and “9 to 5“, which topped the country and pop charts in early1981. She had another Top 10 single that year with “Making Plans“, a single released from a 1980 reunion album with Porter Wagoner.
Dolly Parton holding a baby in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1983
The theme song to the 1980 feature film 9 to 5, in which she starred along withJane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, “9 to 5“, not only reached number one on the countrychart, but also, in February 1981, reached number one on the pop and the adult-contemporarycharts, giving her a triple number-one hit. Parton became one of thefew female country singers to have a number-one single on the country and popcharts simultaneously. It also received a nomination for an Academy Award for BestOriginal Song. Her singles continued to appear consistently in the country Top 10.Between 1981 and 1985, she had 12 Top-10 hits; half of them hit number one. Shecontinued to make inroads on the pop chart as well. A re-recorded version of “I Will Always Love You,“ from the feature film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas(1982) scraped the Top 50 that year and her duet with Kenny Rogers, “Islands in the Stream“ (written by the Bee Gees and produced by Barry Gibb), spent two week sat number one in 1983.
In the mid-1980s, her record sales were still relatively strong, with “Save theLast Dance for Me“, “Downtown“, “Tennessee Homesick Blues“ (1984 ), “Real Love“(another duet with Kenny Rogers), “Don’t Call It Love“ (1985) and “Think AboutLove“ (1986) all reaching the country Top 10 (“Tennessee Homesick Blues“ and“Think About Love“ reached number one; “Real Love“ also reached number one on thecountry chart and became a modest crossover hit). However, RCA Records did notrenew her contract after it expired in 1986, and she signed with Columbia Records in 1987.