It’s been said that country music legend Dolly Parton would be a billionaire today if she just hadn’t given away so darn much money. All those countless hits and accolades and record sales (and amusement park and resort revenue) could have made her a self-centered diva. Instead, she decided to start a foundation to encourage literacy, the Imagination Library. For her immeasurable gift that keeps giving Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is the Pop Culture Hall of Fame inductee for Charities for 2023.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting books free of charge to children from birth to age five. She finances much of it herself, with contributions from local community partners in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland. Since its 1995 founding, the organization has given out over 240 million books around the world. Almost a quarter of a billion books!
What started as a humble project to donate to libraries in her homeland, East Tennessee, quickly grew to national and then international status. Kids through the age of five can sign up to receive books for free to inspire and educate them. Her name isn’t on this project for ego, but to tap into the power of her personality.
Parton doesn’t rest on her laurels, either (although what more could you ask from the woman who recorded “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You?”). Even in her mid-70s, she can belt out those twangy high notes anytime she wants to, say, crank out a best-selling Christmas classic album like she did in 2022.
Anyone who has ever met Parton is left speechless at how genuine, sincere, and humble she is. In 2023, when she was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she asked to be taken out of consideration as she felt her contributions to music had nothing at all to do with rock. The Hall refused, so she threatened to make an album of classic rock covers if voted in.
Which she did. So of course, Ringo and Paul joined her for a Beatles song. So did Pat Benatar, Annie Lennox, Rob Halford (Judas Priest!), Debbie Harry, Kid Rock… She throws herself into everything she does.
Everything she touches turns to gold. And she’s willing to share the wealth. For that generosity, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is the Charity inductee for the Pop Culture Hall of Fame for 2023.