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    How Queen Elizabeth II helped launch Dolly Parton’s pop-crossover success

    How Queen Elizabeth II helped launch Dolly Parton’s pop-crossover success

    During a week in 1977, the “Jolene” vocalist played in New York City’s Greenwich Village and in Glasgow for the Queen of England’s Silver Jubilee

    Dolly Parton’s book program shines with over 187 million books donated
    Since the start of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in Ohio, more than 187 million books have gone to children around the world.
    Ariana Triggs, USA TODAY

    The news of the death of seven-decade English monarch Queen Elizabeth II has touched every corner of the world. But in Nashville, the venerable personality keyed country music’s pop-crossover appeal.

    How so? 

    Well, that requires telling the story of how Dolly Parton once  spent time with John Belushi, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth in the same week.

    The month and year were May 1977.

    The time in Parton’s life was highlighted by reimaging her career from being a Nashville favorite topping the country charts and playing second fiddle to Porter Wagoner on television to being a global crossover superstar.

    Her then brand new Los Angeles-based talent manager Sandy Galin guided the process. Just over a decade prior, in 1964, he was integral in brokering the deal that saw the Beatles make a groundbreaking initial appearance in front of an American television audience on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

    Now, following the underwhelming performance and cancellation of her own Opryland-produced syndicated TV program, Galin had organized a stunning week of appearances and performances for Parton.

    The goal? Ideally, they were meant to bridge Parton between the release of “New Harvest … First Gathering,” her February 1977 released, first chart-topping album on the country charts, and October 1977’s “Here You Come Again,” her breakout, crossover-successful, first platinum-selling release.

    Galin’s mid-May stunner as a part of that plan?

    On May 12-14, Dolly played a three-night engagement at the 400-seat Greenwich Village hipster underground spot The Bottom Line. Then, on May 17, she started a series of European dates by appearing in Glasgow, Scotland – alongside Scottish vocalist Sydney Devine, English comedian Frankie Howerd, and the Jackson 5 – at the 1,800-seat King’s Theatre for the Royal Variety Show as a part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee celebrations.

    “He’s got taste and I got talent,” noted Parton about her work with Galin.

    The queen’s 25th year as England’s royal ruler was celebrated with parties and parades throughout the United Kingdom and Commonwealth in 1977.

    Fascinatingly, Parton thought she was departing for her European dates a few days early.

    “They kept it a surprise from me until I was on the flight over,” Parton said to the Glasgow Evening Times.

    The New York Times and Rolling Stone ran positive reviews of her New York City shows just before her departure.

    The Bottom Line was then a 3-year-old venue that served as a launching pad for the success of Bruce Springsteen, among many others. 

    “I was a little bit nervous – on the brink of being scared,” Parton told the Times. “But when I walked out on stage, I was at ease. The crowd was just great.” 

    The Times added commentary related to the era, noting that the “psychological strain of cutting some of her professional ties with Nashville” coupled with nodes on her vocal cords and tepid response to her new “pop-rock songs” being popular with “transvestites” and “exotic urban cult audiences” has caused “resistance” in Music City circles. 

    Rolling Stone added, positively, that “now iconic hits ‘Coat of Many Colors,’ ‘Jolene’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’ were reminders of the new direction in which she was headed, with ‘Light of a Clear Blue Morning’ the most obvious indication of what had been and what was yet to come.”

    Parton’s trans-Atlantic trip caused quite the stir.

    The singer-songwriter caused her own commotion on the plane flight over, too.

    “When they told me on the plane I was appearing in front of the queen, I just jumped up and down telling everyone. It’s just one of the biggest thrills of my life. When I was a little girl I grew up in a world of kings and queens and princes and princesses in fairy tales. Now I was going to meet one.”

    Upon departure, she noted to Time: “I don’t want to leave the country. I want to take the country with me.”

    Once she landed, she – surrounded by “burly” bodyguards and wearing a “stunning yellow T-shirt and tight-fitting blue jeans tucked into brown boots” – revealed that she was there for the Silver Jubilee performances.

    Backstage after the concert, Parton met the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

     “That was a great moment, I thought,” she recalled in an interview this year. “It’s like I’m not a star worshiper, but as a kid, I was always intrigued by the kings and queens, and I always loved the magazines and the books and their costumes and all. Of course, they weren’t like the old kings and queen of the old stories, but it still had that romantic feeling to me to think, ‘That’s the Queen of England.’”

    On June 4, during the BBC broadcast celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 70th year on the English throne, Parton – sitting next to a framed photograph of the meeting – honored the monarch by stating the following:

    “I want to congratulate you on your Platinum Jubilee and your 70th year as monarch. I just wanted to say thank you for being wonderful, you are more than pearls and you are more than platinum. You have been a shining diamond in this world for so long, and everybody loves you. And I will always love you, too.”

    This content was originally published here.

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