The outfit! The song! The message! How Dolly Parton turned getting her vaccine into a viral moment

Susannah Butter
·4-min read
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly Parton receives a Covid jab (via REUTERS)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly Parton receives a Covid jab (via REUTERS)

It is the perfect antidote to the pandemic of photos of male politicians getting their Covid vaccines that we have been subjected to, torsos on parade. Dolly Parton has shared a video of herself receiving the jab. There is no awkward rolling up of a t-shirt or undoing a blouse to expose her arm for the Queen of Country Music. She neatly circumvented that by wearing a sparkly blue cut out top (similar to the ones that dominated at last month’s New York fashion week). Parton was literally getting a dose of her own medicine - she helped fund the Moderna vaccine, donating 1 million US dollars (£716,000) to Vanderbilt University medical centre in Nashville Tennessee. And she used her trip to see the doctor to spread a vital message about how people shouldn’t be scared to get vaccinated. It’s typical Parton, wrapping up emotive points about being a better human being in a sparkling, fun way. Being Parton, she made her argument in the form of a song, adapting Jolene to sing “vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you please don’t hesitate”. Parton makes it seem fun, all dressed up with fuschia pink nails and gold bangles because “you gotta look good”. But she underscores her song with a serious point, looking to camera and saying “don’t be such a chicken squat, get out there and get your shot”. Well said. It’s not the first time Parton, 75, has told it like it is, with words and action. Here is why she is a force to be reckoned with.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Parton knows the power of words and has sent out more than 100 million free books to children all over the world as part of her Dollywood Foundation. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library posts a book a month to children too young to go to nursery. Her father was illiterate and seeing the challenges he faced inspired the project.

The PMS Blues

Parton can write songs about anything, even PMS. Her 1994 song PMS Blues is an accurate description of PMS, which managed to both explain the serious agony of it and make light of it in order to get by. Sample verse: “Cause a pitbull ain’t no match, For these teeth a clenchin’, fluid retention, Head a swellin’, can’t stop yellin’, Got no patience, I’m so hateful PMS blues, premenstrual syndrome, Got those moods a swingin’, tears a slingin’, Nothin’ fits me when it hits me, Rantin’, ravin’, misbehavin’” The singer has painful experience of PMS. In 1982 when she was 36 and on tour in the US and Canada she went to hospital with severe pain from endometriosis. Half of her uterus was removed and she was unable to have children. In 2008 she said: ‘It was an awful time for me. Every day I thought, ‘I wish I had the nerve to kill myself.

She’s a friend of the animals

Dollywood isn’t just a fun theme park and a charity – it is a haven for wildlife. In 2003, Parton was honoured by the US Fish and Wildlife service for her work preserving the bald eagle at the sanctuary there.

Dolly the great unifier

Parton doesn’t want to get involved in politics but her unifying power is evident – just listen to the podcast Dolly Parton’s America, which chronicles her career and legacy. Its host Jad Abumrad had the idea in summer 2016, watching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump “going at each other’s throats in a way that was shocking…regardless of political party, it just felt like it had gotten so ugly.” Parton came to perform in Queen’s in New York where he lived and he said it felt like when the Pope visited. Everyone from drag queens, to evangelical Christians to hipsters wanted to see her and he realised that she was the “great unifer” people needed. It is Abumrad’s father who gave Parton her vaccine and he introduced them for the podcast There was a similar uplifting effect when she captivated the audience at Glastonbury in 2014. Now that she’s had her vaccine, surely it’s time for a return visit when Glastonbury is next on. The campaign starts here.