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Sometimes even Dolly Parton struggles to keep up with the legend of Dolly Parton.
“I often go to my museum in Dollywood, you know, because I’m in the mood to be there or we’re doing something there or we’re putting something new there. And I look at all that and think ‘When , how did this happen?” she said. “I shake my head when I see, like a documentary or something. I wonder how I did all this, how did I do all this?”
The singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist talks about another wing of her empire, one of two sound stages at a 7,200 square foot studio complex outside Nashville, with assistants and technicians who move and Parton herself in a typically cheerful mood on an otherwise overcast afternoon. Sitting next to her – and dressed in a dark tuxedo jacket touched in black and red to match the pattern of her dress – is a novelist as prolific in her field as she is in writing songs, James Patterson.
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He is one of the best-selling authors in history and, like Parton, a champion of literacy programs. He is 74 years old and has written or co-written hundreds of books. She is 76 years old and has written thousands of songs. Until a few years ago, they were mutual admirers who had never met. Now they’ve finished a novel coming out this week, “Run, Rose, Run,” an Amazon.com bestseller even before it was published and the rare work of fiction to arrive with a soundtrack.
“He would give me ideas for the songs. I gave him ideas which he developed for the characters and incorporated into the book,” says Parton, whose album “Run, Rose, Run” includes 12 new songs. “So it really was a magical team.”
The collaboration began as one of countless ideas from Patterson, who reliably produces several books a year, from children’s stories to a biography of the Kennedys to two bestselling thrillers written with former President Bill Clinton. Patterson spent a lot of time in Nashville in the 1960s while attending Vanderbilt University and thought of an archetypal story – a promising and scared young country singer, Annie Lee Keyes, facing “a million against one”, and her connection to a retired country star, Ruthanna Ryder.
As Patterson and Parton both remember, Patterson contacted Parton’s team and the two soon spoke to each other in Nashville.
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“We liked each other right away. And we kind of made the deal on the spot — no lawyers. We didn’t want anyone in our way,” Patterson said.
“Run, Rose, Run” is a close look at the Nashville music scene, through the eyes of women. The narrative has music and romance and cheering crowds, and lyrics from Parton songs such as the mid-tempo rocker “Big Dreams and Faded Jeans”. On the darker side, unscrupulous executives, unwanted physical advances and masculine manners in the market, defined by a radio consultant’s “salad” theory, in which men are the essential performers, “the lettuce “, women rather like tomatoes, “to sprinkle occasionally in the broadcast as a garnish.”
Parton, who rose from a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee to international fame, says her story is different from that of AnnieLee. But she endured “having bad managers and having to, you know, squirm, try to get out of situations.” AnnieLee’s struggles to take control of her career reminded Parton of her early work with Porter Waggoner, who helped her break through professionally in 1967 when he brought her to his popular television show. They recorded and toured together for seven years, their well-publicized battles, before she announced her departure. The end of their working partnership inspired his classic “I Will Always Love You.”
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“Oh my God, I was fighting with Porter Wagoner all the time,” she says of the late singer, who died in 2007. “We were known for, you know, our disagreements. But he reached out to me. and I always enjoyed that. But I (also) always wanted to be my own star, and I said that at the beginning. I didn’t want to just be a singer in somebody else’s band.
Parton’s life is now much closer to that of Ruthanna, “one of country music’s greatest queens”. But Parton is a little softer. When Ruthanna first meets AnnieLee, at a small table at the back of a bar, Ruthanna praises her talent as “something special” before advising her to “get the hell out of Nashville” and avoid going broke. and alone.
“I would never tell someone not to follow their dream,” Parton says. “I would just say, ‘If you’re serious about what you’re doing, you gotta buckle up and take it. You gotta sacrifice as much as you can and compromise, but never sacrifice your soul and your principles and your values. This is where Ruthanna and I disagree. I would never tell a young person not to follow their dream because I would crush someone. Even if they weren’t as talented, I wouldn’t tell him that.”
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Ruthanna is out of business and very happy to be past the “desire to pour her heart into a melody”. Parton is into it, writing so often that she likes to tell Patterson she could produce a song while standing on her head. “Run, Rose, Red” is just part of their 2022. His other books this year include the memoir “James Patterson: The Stories of My Life” and another thriller “Michael Bennett.” She was scheduled to host the Academy of Country Music Awards the night her book was released and, via livestream, will appear later this month for the first time at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.
“Where would I go? she said when asked if she would ever retire. “You can’t leave yourself behind. I would do my music, I would write my songs if I had to sell them out of the trunk of my car. And I did that in the beginning when I was young and trying to to get things So I would do it no matter what, even if I had to take another job.
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“One of the similarities between Dolly and me is that we don’t work for a living,” adds Patterson. “We play for a living. You keep doing that. Why would you stop playing if you can, if you can do it?”