100 Greatest Singers
January 19th, 1946
Key Tracks "Jolene," "I Will Always Love You," "9 to 5"
Influenced Shania Twain, Natalie Maines, Alison Krauss
Dolly Parton describes her voice as "a cross between Tiny Tim and a nanny goat." Such self-deprecation is typical, but others hear her childlike quaver and soulful delivery as effervescent, joyful, heartbreaking — sometimes all in the same song. Her range includes fingerpicked folk songs ("Coat of Many Colors"), soaring ballads ("I Will Always Love You"), classic country ("My Tennessee Mountain Home") and mainstream pop ("9 to 5"). "Each song has its own message and its own dynamics and range," she says. "I don't try to do anything but listen to the words and act them out vocally, as an actor would act out a scene." Parton has impacted stars as far-flung as Whitney Houston and Jessica Simpson. Says LeAnn Rimes, "Dolly made me realize that there are endless possibilities when communicating with your voice."