Country music superstar Dolly Parton loves kids. She’s spent a lot of time caring for them and has given unsparingly from her talents and wealth to try and improve their lives. You may have noticed, however, that the singer has no children of her own. And in an interview with Matt Lauer for TV network ABC’s Today show, she shared her feelings about this.
Parton herself came from a big family, and she says that, naturally, this has helped her engage with kids of all ages. In 2017 she told the entertainment website HuffPost, “I’m the perfect grandma, I’m the perfect aunt, I’m the perfect babysitter because I don’t have children. So I bring them over to visit me by choice. They don’t get dumped on me.”
Indeed, Parton seems to be the queen of babysitters, and she told the MadeForMums website what kids who visit her house might get up to. She said, “You wouldn’t believe my place! I got treehouses. I got caves. I love to babysit ’cause it gives me a chance to play.” On top of that, Dolly is godmother to Miley Cyrus and played a big part in the young popster’s upbringing.
Even though Parton has not had children of her own, it clearly hasn’t stopped her from being a positive influence in their lives. She often makes time for kids, you see, and finds ways to help and nurture them. In fact, given that the singer’s family is so large, it’s likely that she mixes with children on a daily basis.
But before we find out Dolly Parton’s true feelings about not having children of her own, let’s take a closer look at the star’s incredible and long-lasting career. The singer has undeniably hit the heights, with 41 of her albums making the top ten for the country music genre. And this is the most that any artist has achieved. She has been showered with awards, too, winning a whopping ten Grammys from 47 nominations.
In 1999 Parton’s success as a country music star saw her enjoy induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. And it was due recognition for an artist who has written more than 3,000 ditties. These have included a number of instantly recognizable smashes such as “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You,” which was a hit for both Dolly and Whitney Houston.
But Parton hasn’t just wowed the world of country music. That’s right: she’s also a crossover artist, having tacked into mainstream territory in the 1970s. At that time, she started to do more production work on her albums. And this decision let her pop instincts come to the fore, eventually resulting in hits such as “9 to 5.”
Speaking of “9 to 5,” then, the film of that name also brought Parton a Golden Globe nomination in 1980, as did The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas two years later. Yes, the singer’s work has been noted by all of the Academy, Tony, Emmy and Grammy Awards. This is a rare achievement that proves she has an elusive mix of singing and acting talent.
It was a long way to the top for Parton, however, who was born into abject poverty. Indeed, the doctor who brought the star into the world received his payment in cornmeal because her folks had no money. And of her home in east Tennessee, the singer would say that it had “running water if you were willing to run and get it.”
Although her dad couldn’t read or write, Parton reckons him to have been right on the ball when it came to business, with nous that she believed he passed down to her. Her mom had less time for work outside the home, though, as she was kept busy by her dozen kids. Interestingly, she would play music throughout the day as a form of entertainment. What’s more, the singer’s granddad was a man of God, so she grew up going to church a lot, too.
When Parton was only a kid, she started to perform, getting experience on TV and radio shows in her local east Tennessee. And at the age of ten, she could be heard and seen on shows in Knoxville, TN. Soon she was making records, although it’s fair to say that she had more success writing songs for other people in her early days.
Parton didn’t go unnoticed, though, and in 1967 one of country’s big names Porter Wagoner asked her to become part of his company, with regular TV gigs as well as live performances for her if she said yes. He also got her signed up to the RCA Victor record label. Together they became highly successful, but the singer’s heart was set on a career as a solo artist.
Parton didn’t take leaving Wagoner lightly, with the episode immortalized in her song “I Will Always Love You.” Nevertheless, her solo career was an immediate success, with 1974 bringing her three country chart-toppers. In fact, she wrote the later Whitney Houston hit in the same session as “Jolene,” which qualified it as, in her own words, “a good night.”
Naturally, a long career has its ups and downs, and Parton seemed to have been suffering a low in the mid-1980s. That was until her album Trio with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris hit number one on the Billboard country chart, however. And she didn’t look back from there, with a string of successes in country, pop and bluegrass that lasted for the next three decades.
In 2014 Parton’s 42nd studio album Blue Smoke proved that she wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down, either. The record hit her highest mark on the Billboard 200, reaching the top ten for the first time. It was also a hit in the United Kingdom, proving her popularity wasn’t limited to home.
With success has come monetary reward, too. And Parton didn’t forget her roots when it came to investing it. She put a lot of her earnings into businesses in east Tennessee and particularly into the town of Pigeon Forge, which was her home for many years. Top among them is Dollywood, her own theme park – and it brings in roughly three million visitors annually.
Despite Parton’s prominence as a public figure, she doesn’t weigh in on political issues. In 2019, for instance, her sister Stella took her to task about her silence on the #MeToo phenomenon. However, the country star rather coolly noted to U.K. newspaper The Guardian, “I don’t feel I have to march, hold up a sign or label myself. I think the way I have conducted my life and my business and myself speaks for itself.”
However, when Parton was questioned about how it was possible that Dollywood could bring in both church groups and LGBTQ+ people, she shared her views with Billboard magazine in 2014. She said, “It’s a place for entertainment, a place for all families, period. It’s for all that. But as far as the Christians, if people want to pass judgment, they’re already sinning. The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say somebody else is committing. I try to love everybody.”
Parton continued on the same theme, saying of LGBT people, “They know that I completely love and accept them, as I do all people. I’ve struggled enough in my life to be appreciated and understood. I’ve had to go against all kinds of people through the years just to be myself. I think everybody should be allowed to be who they are and to love who they love.”
And as for Parton’s love life, she has found a companion in husband Carl Thomas Dean for more than five decades now. If you’re sure you’ve never seen pictures of Dean, though, it’s no surprise. Her partner stays very private. In fact, he’s only ever been to one concert of Parton’s and won’t attend events with her. But away from the public, they seem to be very much in love, and in 2016 they renewed their vows to celebrate 50 years of marriage together.
The couple certainly makes for a smaller family unit than Parton was used to as a kid; she had 11 siblings, you see. And as we’ve noted, her family didn’t have a huge amount of money. Her dad, Robert, farmed for subsistence and did some construction work, while her mom, Avie, kept home. However, Parton wasn’t just a big sister.
No, the singer has also been a mom-like figure to some of her younger brothers and sisters. She brought them up in Nashville, TN, and she has a special place in their family units now, too. Indeed, her nephews and nieces call her “Aunt Granny.” Parton loves the name so much that she made it the moniker of one of the restaurants at Dollywood.
And Parton’s siblings are not the only people to whom she’s become a “second mom.” Yes, she is very close to fellow country star Billy Ray Cyrus and spoke about it on radio station SiriusXM in November 2019. The singer said, “I worked with Billy Ray for all those years when he had ‘Achy Breaky Heart.’ He worked with me on some shows we did in the early days. He opened some of my shows.”
Parton continued, “We just got to know each other. I wrote a song called ‘Romeo’ and had him in a video. We just kind of gelled ’cause we’re both country kids. We had a lot of fun just talking about that. And then when Miley came along, I said, ‘She’s got to be my fairy goddaughter.’”
It was a task that Parton took very seriously, acting as a role model for Miley. And the relationship has often been expressed in public, with the two singing together on several occasions, including the time they brought the house down with a version of “Jolene” at the 2019 Grammys. It wasn’t the first time that they’d got together to duet on that song, though.
Parton told SiriusXM that she didn’t expect to lay down the law for Miley. She said, “Lord, I’ve done everything, and what I ain’t done, I intend to. She’s going to do that, too. But Miley’s smart; Miley knows what she’s doing. I know we think she doesn’t, and she might not every minute, but I still know that she’s got good stuff in her.”
Indeed, Parton said that her way was to act as a model rather than advise Miley. She continued, “I’ve told her some things that I think are valuable and that she uses, but I’d rather live an example. [I want to] be an example rather than just try to tell somebody to do this, do that because I don’t think that’s right. Everybody’s different.”
And that approach, along with her personal characteristics, has made Parton popular with kids. She told TV show Today in 2017, “I have that high-pitched voice… I look like Mother Goose or one of those over-exaggerated characters, and kids just relate to that.” And the love seemingly goes both ways, as the singer’s big charity effort proves.
Some years ago, you see, Parton set up the Imagination Library. This project aims to get kids reading by giving them free books from the day that they’re born until they go to school. This deal is no questions asked: kids are offered the books regardless of what the family income might be.
The project began in 1995 in Sevier County, TN, the place that Parton had her childhood – and it soon blossomed. By 2000 it had gone national, with the program reaching its millionth book in 2003. And after that, it even went global, with the United Kingdom and Australia among the countries where it operated by the end of the 2010s.
At the time of Parton’s interview with Today in 2017, the Imagination Library was nearing its 100-millionth gift. With that milestone approaching, then, Parton decided to give the project a boost. And what better way to do so than by creating a children’s album? So, she then recorded I Believe In You with the aim of donating everything that it earned to the project.
Parton wasn’t short of ideas for kids’ song ideas, either. She told ABC in 2014, “I write personal songs for my little nieces and nephews and friends, so it just seemed to be a good time.” And the album presented a good opportunity for a bit of education too, with songs about personal responsibility and bullying included in the list of tracks.
However, despite her evident love of kids, Parton has none of her own. But as she noted on Today in 2017, this isn’t the end of the world. She said, “God has a plan for everything. I think it probably was his plan for me not to have kids, so everybody’s kids could be mine. And they are now.”
Indeed, Parton said she did not feel any sorrow over her lack of children. She explained, “No. I used to think I should regret it. Early on, when my husband and I were dating, and then when we got married, we just assumed we would have kids.” And it turned out that she had been quite prepared for motherhood.
In that respect, the star continued, “We weren’t doing anything to stop it. In fact, we thought maybe we would. We even had names if we did, but it didn’t turn out that way.” Indeed, in another interview in November 2019, she told HuffPost, “If we’d had a girl, she was gonna be called Carla… Anyway, we talked about it, and we dreamed it, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Furthermore, Parton described to HuffPost the sort of speculation in which she had indulged. She said, “You always wonder. My husband and I, when we first got married, we thought about if we had kids, what would they look like? Would they be tall – because he’s tall? Or would they be little squats like me?”
But whatever Parton had speculated, it didn’t come to pass, and she had decided that divine intervention had been the reason. In 2017 she told Today, “Now I say, ‘God didn’t mean for me to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine.’ I’m very close to my family… and we’re very close to our nieces and nephews.”
And Parton even had reasons to be happy to have remained childless. She told HuffPost that she would have had to make enormous sacrifices if life had turned out differently. She said, “Because I would’ve felt guilty about that if I’d have left them [to work and tour]. Everything would have changed. I probably wouldn’t have been a star.” So, as she said on Today, “Now we don’t have kids to worry about.”
Nevertheless, given how natural a mom Parton would have been, the news that she could not have kids must have been devastating. In 1984 she had to have a part hysterectomy that ended her chances of childbearing. Ultimately, she decided to make the best of life without offspring and didn’t adopt since she had younger siblings to care for already.
But Parton is a master of not sharing private information, so the contents of her heart remain hers alone. As she was reported to have said, “I’ll just tell it as I know it, or as I feel it… or as I want you to hear it.” In the end, all we know for certain is that the country star does not have any children – but she loves kids all the same.
Some music stars have been faced with the challenge of balancing a glistening career and motherhood, however. And superstar Cher is just one example here. Like Parton, the singer of ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ has also experienced her fair share of ups and downs. So, here’s a closer look at the star’s private life and how both she and her children have overcome life’s hiccups.
Singer, actress, superstar… Cher has had a lot of different roles throughout her career. But the one thing about Cher’s life that people often arguably overlook is her never-ending role as a mother. Yes, in the 1970s Cher had two children: a girl named Chastity, and a boy called Elijah Blue. And what a lot of fans don’t know is that each of Cher’s children has had – and struggled to get past – their issues, just like the star herself. So what has gone on behind closed doors? Well, here’s the story of Cher’s life, loves and kids.
Described by Forbes magazine as “the most famous chanteuse and performer of our time,” Cher has attained fame and stayed relevant with a chameleon-like ability to move with the times. The “Goddess of Pop” has also proven to be a magnetic presence on stage – and paved the way for other female stars to mix showmanship with music.
Since going solo, in fact, Cher has shifted 100 million units – and that’s on top of the 40 million records that she sold as half of Sonny & Cher. She’s also received acclaim as an actress for films such as Silkwood, The Witches of Eastwick and Moonstruck – even taking home an Oscar for her performance in the last of those. The star has a host of other awards, too, including an Emmy and a Grammy.
It’s little wonder, then, that Ms. magazine hailed Cher as an authentic “feminist hero” for the 1980s. The mag said, “Cher, the straightforward, tattooed, dyslexic single mother, the first Oscar-winner to have entered into matrimony with a known heroin addict and to have admitted to being a fashion victim by choice, has finally landed in an era that’s not afraid to applaud real women.”
Cher’s biographer Mark Bego summed her up, too. He wrote, “No one in the history of show business has had a career of the magnitude and scope of Cher’s. She has been a teenage pop star, a television hostess, a fashion magazine model, a rock star, a pop singer, a Broadway actress, an Academy Award-winning movie star, a disco sensation – and the subject of a mountain of press coverage.”
Yet this may all have seemed a long way off when Cher ditched high school at 16 with her heart set on fame and fortune. That was in 1962, when she met a 28-year-old assistant to Phil Spector, the record producer. The man in question was, of course, Sonny Bono. And in time the star would come to be very close to Bono – so close that they unofficially got hitched in Tijuana in the fall of 1964.
Bono’s idea had actually been for Cher to become an artist in her own right. But she was too nervous to perform on her own, so he would get up on stage with her and sing harmonies. Cher was therefore able to focus on Bono and ignore the nerves. At the beginning, though, Cher had limited success with solo work, including a cover of Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want To Do” and an album of the same name.
But in 1965 it was as a duo that Sonny & Cher would break through – with the recording of “I Got You Babe.” The pair had actually been told that a U.K. audience would be more receptive to their musical style than the U.S., so they headed to London. There, the Hilton hotel did not like their clothing and threw them out – and the ensuing publicity saw the couple become instant stars.
The clothing created a sensation, too, with British kids rushing to dress just like Sonny & Cher. This, alongside the massive success of “I Got You Babe,” saw the duo become massively sought-after. And suddenly, the pair were all the rage on TV and in sold-out shows in arenas across America as well.
In the mid-1960s, then, Sonny & Cher occupied the stratosphere of pop celebrity. They were the “it” couple of rock music, and, on the back of their enormous popularity, the duo sold 40 million records across the globe. But rock took a political turn as the decade came to an end, and the shifting landscape left the pair behind. But what was worse for the couple was that they had apparently spent all of their money.
Bono had allegedly been seeing other women, too, so the couple had relationship problems to add to their financial woes. But Bono apparently wanted to work at it, and he told Cher that he longed for a proper marriage and a family. The family therefore came in 1969, when Cher had her first child, who was named Chastity at birth. The official wedding of Sonny & Cher followed shortly after.
Chastity’s name derived from the character whom Cher portrayed in her first solo movie role. But Chastity did not use that name exclusively. Bono once took Chastity to a shop to buy a personalized keyring, you see, but the store did not have the right name. So Bono asked his child to choose a name that they did have. From then on, then, the name “Fred” stuck.
On the career front, though, it seemed that it was time for some rebranding. So Bono had the duo take on a much more hippie look. And it clearly worked, as in 1971 the couple had their own TV show on CBS. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was a hit, too, and there was even space to feature the young Chastity.
On the show, though, Bono took the role of a fool under the feet of Cher’s whip-smart lady. However, the act was just for show; in reality Bono retained control. When Bono died in 1998, in fact, Cher said in his eulogy, “He had the confidence to be the butt of the joke, because he created the joke.”
Despite the success of the program, though, the couple’s relations had begun to wear thin. In a 1999 interview with Benjamin Svetkey, Cher described how things had been. She said, “He was like the father. You know how you can be frightened of your father even if he doesn’t ever do anything?”
The diva continued, “It wasn’t like, I mean, he never hit me, never really yelled at me. He could be tough, though. He could just be real tough in that kind of horrible, tough Sicilian way. I couldn’t stand on my own two feet and talk back to him. That was my problem. I could just never ever talk back to him, and so I never got any of my needs met that weren’t what he felt they should be.”
Cher explained how things had changed. She said, “When I was young, it didn’t make any difference because I was so crazy about him on so many levels. He was really everything to me, and after I had Chaz I started to grow up, and he wouldn’t allow it, and I was starting to really… He was starting to kill my spirit.”
So the singer decided that she needed more out of their arrangement. She told Svetkey, “I went to him and said, ‘Look, break the contract. Let us drop a new contract, make it 50-50. You can’t tell me what to do anymore. I’m 27 years old. You can just not tell me what to do.’ And he wouldn’t do it, and he just didn’t count on how tough I could be.”
In the end, then, Cher decided that divorce was the best course. She applied for a permanent separation in 1974, citing “involuntary servitude” as the reason. But the case didn’t run smoothly. Accusations flew about money from the show, in fact, and Bono even wanted custody of Chastity. Of course, in the circumstances, the TV show could not continue.
During the divorce case, though, Cher had found someone new. In fact, she was dating David Geffen, the record label boss. He had initially got involved when Bono wouldn’t move out of the marital home. And while Bono had been off recording one night, Geffen and two goons had pitched all of the star’s goods into the street – even turfing out Bono’s current girlfriend in the process.
But three days after finalizing the divorce in 1975, Cher got hitched again – this time to Gregg Allman. Barely more than a week later, though, the singer was ready to call it off. Allegedly, Cher found that she couldn’t cope with Allman’s reliance on booze and heroin. She would later say, “He was so high he didn’t even understand me.”
However, Allman would not give up on Cher – so he sobered up and rekindled their marriage. And in 1976 Bono and Cher actually started their show all over again. Allman apparently found it all so astonishing that this time he wanted to quit the marriage. But when Cher told him that she was pregnant with Elijah Blue, Allman decided that he was okay with it. In any case, the show did not go particularly well.
The couple also made an album of duets, called Two the Hard Way. But neither the critics nor the listeners were very keen on the record – and the marriage would not recover. Allman told Entertainment Weekly magazine in 1992, “There was no future for us, because she has that constant paranoia of [my] going back to alcohol.”
After two marriages, then, Cher had two children. The oldest, Chastity, later followed her into music with a band called Ceremony. Chastity also tried out acting but initially found that it wasn’t a good fit. This was because the now trans man felt uncomfortable with being a woman. In fact, later years would see Chaz Bono succeed at acting, with parts in soap The Bold and the Beautiful and 2017’s American Horror Story: Cult.
Chaz’s life has not been easy, then. When only 18, for instance, the then-Chastity came out as a lesbian. Chaz wrote in his 1998 book, Family Outing, about the experience: “As a child, I always felt there was something different about me… When I was 13, I finally found a name for exactly how I was different. I realized I was gay.”
At first, in Chaz’s words, Cher wasn’t reconciled to Chastity’s sexuality and apparently went “ballistic.” A year later, however, Cher “came out” herself as the mother of a lesbian – showing her pride on gay magazine The Advocate’s front cover. Of course, Cher then became renowned for being an LGBT ally.
Sadly, though, Chaz’s good relations with Bono faltered when the latter won election to Congress as a Republican. So fierce were their political disagreements that the pair stopped speaking to each other. And that had gone on for longer than a year when Bono suffered a horrific skiing accident that ended his life in 1998.
Ten years later, Chaz underwent more upheaval with the beginning of his transition to the man whom he had known himself to be. His name changed legally to Chaz as well. But it wasn’t simply a matter of changing names. He said in his documentary, Becoming Chaz, “There was a number of years where I knew I was transgender but was afraid to do anything about it.”
Again, the changes in Chaz’s life apparently struck Cher hard, and she had to get used to the idea. She told lifestyle website Monagiza in September 2019, “You have this child for 40 years, and suddenly they’re going away.” But once more Cher did come to terms with Chaz’s change, and she was able to give him support in whatever he chose.
Chaz expressed his gratitude for that support, too, and he claimed that they have a strong relationship. This was despite Cher’s occasional reported lapse into being “overbearing.” And the star’s other son, Elijah Blue, echoed that she had made an effort to be a good mother – accepting that it had not been easy given her fame.
One reason Elijah Blue may have initially struggled to form a good relationship with Cher was that he had been sent away to school as a child and attended a succession of places. At one point, in fact, he had been sent to military school as a “punishment.” However, Elijah Blue later reported that he had actually enjoyed that experience.
Elijah Blue told U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail in 2014 that going away to school had even “saved” him from the Hollywood lifestyle. He explained to Monagiza in 2019, “There were a lot of big parties, and there was an era for that… when I was a little kid, like in the ’80s, there was a lot of that.”
Given his father’s profession, though, it’s perhaps no surprise that Elijah Blue became a guitarist. Gifted his initial instrument by Gene Simmons of Kiss, Elijah Blue even toured with his mom when he was only 13. He also tried out to play for Nine Inch Nails, unsuccessfully, and started his own band, Deadsy, for which he played guitar and sang.
But a negative feature of Elijah Blue’s life was his problems with addiction. He told the Daily Mail, “My drug addiction was pretty much about an eight-year thing of really heavy using. I was taking lots of drugs on the road. I was smoking dope [heroin], taking a lot of pills, any painkiller we could get, and drinking.” However, he did quit heroin for good in 2008.
Having survived the party lifestyle, though, Elijah Blue would subsequently be struck down by illness. He in fact contracted Lyme disease, possibly when swimming in India. Yet doctors had initially been bemused by his symptoms – particularly when he hadn’t tested positive for Lyme disease. He told the Daily Mail, “After that, I kind of gave up that allopathic Western medicine route and went natural.”
And Elijah Blue did find some comfort in love with wife-to-be Angie. Allegedly, though, Cher ignored the couple’s engagement – so Elijah Blue struck back. He told the Daily Mail, “I wasn’t going to wait for anyone’s approval and congratulations just like I’ve never waited for any of that my whole life. The way I eloped with my wife is the same way I’ve done everything I’ve ever done. I don’t know any other way, and we knew it was the right time.”
Elijah Blue continued, “I’ve always been the black sheep of my family. The reason being, we just have different value systems, and we just have a different mentality, and that clashes a lot. We have lots of ups and downs and right now isn’t the best time. Had we been getting on a little bit better… maybe it would have been different.”
Elijah Blue was, however, able to make a better friendship with his dad, Allman, before the latter’s 2017 death. He told the Daily Mail in 2014, “It’s not that it’s been bad [their relationship], just been very absentee. I’ve forgiven him for that. I’ve seen my dad a lot more in the last year than I have in a long time. That was something that was absent when I was growing up, and it’s important to mend fences now in our relationship.”
Cher’s two sons do not have a particularly good relationship with each other, however. Elijah Blue told TV show Entertainment Tonight in 2014, “We were close [growing up]. I think what happened was, Chaz went off to a performing arts school back east, and I went off back east as well, later to prep school, and so, you know, from there we kind of took different paths. But for a minute growing up we were kind of close, yeah. We kind of grew apart.”
When asked about Chaz’s transition, Elijah Blue described it as a “challenge.” He said, “I mean, I knew about it many years ago. This had been sort of bouncing around for about a decade, and I went to that first year ‘manniversary.’ Any psychiatrist will tell you that there’s a period of time that you have to come to terms with it.”