Dolly Parton Once Said She Works Hard to Be Happy

Dolly Parton is always smiling. She seems to radiate goodness and joy. But where does all that happiness come from? How is the Queen of Country so happy all of the time? Well, in a 1981 interview, the “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” singer said happiness, like anything else one wants to become good at, is a practice.

Dolly Parton is photographed at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on November 13, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dolly Parton | Taylor Hill/Getty Images

The ‘Jolene’ singer doesn’t wallow

Even back in 1981, people would ask the “9 to 5” singer what the secret to her happiness was.

“People say, ‘Don’t you ever get depressed?’ or whatever,” she said on The Ralph Emery Show, as recorded in the book Dolly on Dolly. “I’m very emotional. I don’t make a career out of being depressed. I refuse to waller around in it. But yeah, I get hurt deep. You gotta work at being happy, just like you gotta work at being miserable. Some people are pros at that. But I just choose a different way, I guess.”

The host of the show said that some people are happy being miserable and the Queen of Country agreed.

“But I’m not happy being miserable,” she said. “I hurt bad. I hurt deep. And I cry hard at times. But I get it out and get it over with and get back to better things.”

Dolly Parton feels everything

33 years later, and people are still asking the “Down From Dover” singer the same question: “How are you so happy all the time?” In a 2014 interview with Southern Living, Parton replied, “I’m not always happy.” In fact, it’s important for her art that she’s not.

“Nobody is happy all the time,” she said. “I’m a very sensitive person. I’m a songwriter, so I have to live with my feelings on my sleeve. I have to not harden my heart, because I want to stay open to feel things. So when I hurt, I hurt all over. And when I cry, I cry real hard. And when I’m mad, I’m mad all over. I’m just a person; I like to experience whatever the feeling is and whatever I’m going through. But I have a good attitude. And I was born with a happy heart. I’m always looking for things to be better.”

Dolly Parton’s unwavering confidence


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Along with her happy heart, Parton was born with a strong sense of confidence in herself. That confidence helped her find her purpose and her happiness.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” she said on The Ralph Emery Show in 1981. “I have a lot of confidence in people. I think that, no matter what we are, we can be more. I think you have to be sure of what you can do. I know my limitations. I don’t like other people placing limitations on me. The things that I feel like I want and that I can do, I feel that I should get out and try. As a human being, I feel like I should find out what my purpose and reason is in life. I want to know that I have done everything that I can with all the things that God has given me. Otherwise, I feel like it would be a sin.

“But I like people, I enjoy life, I like to give more than I take. . . I’m happy! I have all the reason to be. I got a good family, was brought up with good parents, and my personality and all that comes from my background in church and believin’ that all things are possible,” she continued. “I just kind of work with that attitude.”