When Dolly Parton Was 35 She ‘Suffered More, Experienced More, and Realized More Than Ever’

Article Highlights:

  • Dolly Parton has a ‘major’ year every seven years
  • What happened when Parton was 35
  • How she got back on track
Country singer Dolly Parton performs one of her many hits in this 1981 Universal City, California, live concert photo.
Dolly Parton in 1981 | George Rose/Getty Images

35 was a big year for Dolly Parton. She went through a lot and learned a lot — about life and herself. According to the Queen of Country, every seventh year for her is monumental. Here’s what she meant by that and why 35 was a standout.

Every seventh year for Dolly Parton is ‘major’

When Parton was interviewed by Ladies’ Home Journal in 1982, she explained that she’d picked up on a pattern in her life — every seventh year was a “major turnaround.” For example, 1974 was a monumental year for the “Jolene” singer because she left The Porter Wagoner Show and suffered an ugly professional split from her former partner.

RELATED: Dolly Parton Says This 1970 Song Is ‘One of the Saddest Songs I’ve Ever Been a Part Of’

Porter Wagoner essentially discovered Parton. He brought her on to be his “new girl singer” on The Porter Wagoner Show, and the two became one of the most successful country duos of their time. Despite their success, their seven years together were often tense and heated. There was a power struggle between the two — Wagoner was used to being the boss and getting his way, and Parton came in with lots of new ideas she was willing to fight for. After Parton finally convinced Wagoner to let her go, he slammed her in the press and eventually sued his former partner for $3 million.

Then, in 1981, the year she turned 35, Parton “suffered more, experienced more and realized more than ever in my entire life.”

Parton told Ladies’ Home Journal she was sure “it will happen again, I’m sure, in seven years, when I’m forty-two.”

Why 35 was a big year

“My heart was shattered in the beginning of the year, not by a romance, but by an ‘affair of the heart,'” she said. “And it about killed me.”

When pressed, the singer wouldn’t elaborate on the “affair of the heart” — “I do have a right to some secret spots.” But in her autobiography, she wrote that the man in question was Gregg Perry, her band leader.

“Gregg and I became very close,” she wrote. “I had never spent so much time with such a well-educated and knowledgeable man… I let myself get completely wrapped up in him.”

RELATED: Dolly Parton Once Said She Works Hard to Be Happy

In addition to her “affair of the heart,” Parton also struggled with several other things going on in her life.

“Then also last year my throat was bad, I was trying to write, there were lots of family problems, and this came on top of [9 to 5‘s] putdowns and dragouts and misunderstandings,” she said.

But everything changed after Parton took a break and returned to her roots — “Everything switched, cleared up and turned into a year of enlightenment.”

Dolly Parton ran away and had a ‘religious experience’

Just when she needed it most, Parton ran off with her best friend, Judy Ogle. They rented a station wagon, drove on back roads, and eventually ended up in wine country just above San Francisco.

“Dolly didn’t come along,” she winked.

“No wig, no makeup—and only three people recognized me because I smiled or talked,” she said. “That always gives me away. I planned to hike and write songs, but midway we fell into these heavy conversations and I got caught up in a spiritual awakening that was joyful and real. I felt so close to God that I expected to see a revelation. I thought if I could just go around the next bend in the road, there’s an answer. Oh, I wanted to keep going, and when I had to come back to work, I cried. I learned more things in those five days because it was like before I got to be a star. And I thought, well, I’m not going to miss this anymore by getting caught up living in a mansion. I’m going to fix me a van—a dream machine—and do more of this. I’m also going to buy some property far away from everything where I can write and read. It’ll be my Garden of Eden, closer to God.”