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Dolly Parton found success at a young age and has maintained it for well over 50 years. With her profits, she has funded charity efforts and poured money back into her home state. Though she tries to do the best she can with her wealth, Parton says she has a guilt complex about her success. She shared why she feels this way.

A black and white photo of Dolly Parton wearing a jacket and a silk scarf around her head.
Dolly Parton | Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Dolly Parton’s siblings are also musically talented

Growing up, Parton and her family spent a great deal of time in her grandfather’s church. He was a Pentecostal preacher who welcomed music in his services. Because of this, Parton and her siblings grew up surrounded by song. 

“I think we really got our talent from, you know, from mama’s side of the family, although some of my dad’s people picking thing, as well,” she told NPR.

She added that all of her 12 siblings have musical talent. Some, she says, are even more talented than her.

“I have – there’s 12 of us kids, six girls and six boys, and we all sing and write and play,” she said. “It’s just that I think I’ve taken it farther. I don’t know that I’m near as good as some of the others, but I’ve been more willing to sacrifice and work a little harder than some of the others might have been willing, you know, to do just because they wanted to have a family and do other things.”

The ‘Jolene’ singer says she sometimes feels guilty about her success

Parton’s drive has lifted her to unique celebrity status. Though she began as a country star, her fan base extends far outside of the genre. She explained that this widespread success can make her feel guilty, particularly because of the talent of those close to her.

“It’s true, even within my own family I talk about in the book [Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You], too, how I have a guilt complex about being the one that’s so successful when so many of them are so much more talented than me,” she told NPR. “And so many friends that I know in Nashville that have twice the talent that I’ve had, that I’ve seen them come and go through the years and never see their dream come true.”

She explains that part of her success is because of her drive, but she says that it’s hard to discern why one person hits it big over another.

“You don’t really know that individual’s life,” she explained. “A lot of people get off-track. A lot of people will have a lot of momentum going, they’ll get something going, and they’ll either fall in love, and they’ll be with someone who’s not good for them, they get off-track, they let too much time go by, they lose momentum, so – or some get on drugs, some get on alcohol, some get on – you know, they get off of the path that they have to stay on.”

Despite the guilt she feels, she affirmed that she is endlessly grateful for her life and will continue to hold onto it as tight as she can.

Dolly Parton described what keeps her motivated

Parton believes that her motivation is what has buoyed her career. She explained what keeps her feeling driven.

“Well, I never wanted to have to work a real job,” she said. “I never wanted to work that hard. I knew that God gave me a talent, and he gave me the kind of personality that I could use my personality, as well as my talent.”


Dolly Parton Once Admitted She Never Feels ‘Good Enough’

Clearly, the combination of her personality and talent has made for a prosperous life.