Dolly Parton has talked to just about everyone in the music and entertainment world over her 50+ years in music, movies, and spearheading her children's literacy initiative, Imagination Library. Still, even for an undisputed legend, and rightful queen in Country Music, there are those who become more than business contacts, transferring to genuine friends. Lee Gifford clearly is one of those in Dolly Parton's friend category, and the two ladies with so much in common and a connection deeper than sharing the stage sat for a candid talk on “Today” on March 29.

From ribbing to what really matters

Kathie Lee Gifford took some good-natured ribbing this morning about not remembering a medley of Lionel Richie's greatest hits as Miss America host in a 1986 look back at her storied career. Noting that she was “heavily medicated” due to a bad cold, Kathie Lee could excuse herself for not remembering the gentleman on stage with her, or some of her regrettable looks over the last 40 years or so, presented in a style montage alongside Hoda Kotb.

There was nothing to regret about her conversation with Dolly Parton, however, who is soon going to share Nashville citizenship with Gifford, after next Friday's “Today” hail and farewell. The country music icon who just signed a deal with Sony weeks ago for her expansive song catalog described how songwriting and her irrepressible work ethic was imparted through her “Smoky Mountain DNA.” Gifford holds a similar feeling to show business, frequently saying that she was born “with a pratfall and a rim shot,” and declaring that the next chapter of her life will allow her to fulfill her dream to be “The Girl in the Movies,” à la the Dolly Parton song.

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TV Shows

The new Netflix series “Heartstrings,” produced by a close mutual friend of Dolly Parton and Kathie Lee Gifford, will premiere this fall, and there is no shortage of material for the stories behind the songs. Each episode will focus on one particular song from Dolly's vast catalog of beloved tunes.

When it comes to the “writer’s trunk” of songs, known to hold the songs destined for hits and others not so much, Dolly confesses that her collection has outgrown a treasure box.

“I have shoeboxes, Kleenex boxes, I have ‘em in drawers,” confesses the 2019 MusiCares Person of the Year. The number is beyond counting, but Parton knows that there are thousands of songs, starting with “Tiny Tassel Top,” about a beloved cornhusk doll crafted by her parents, written at age 10.

Dolly Parton is the first to dismiss the notion proposed by some that she doesn't need to work. Insisting that “I dreamed myself into a corner,” the most honored female in music still has dreams to fulfill, realize and enjoy in her lifetime, and she sees no reason to stop now.

The minds of men

In today's interview and one last weekend with “CBS This Morning” correspondent, Anthony Mason, Dolly Parton paid homage to her father for the sense of belief he instilled in his daughter, one that spoke “you don't have to take nothin’ off of anybody,” convincing her that “you’re a good girl, and you're smart.” Her innate confidence carried on from the stage to the boardroom, where Dolly Parton was able to negotiate strong deals that still left the men smiling.

She takes pride in how her father knew how to trade and barter in any circumstance, despite never learning to read. His inspiration led to the launch of Imagination Library, which mails books to preschoolers across the globe. Robert Lee Parton lived to see that inspiration of his love and strength take flight.

Living with brothers, uncles and her business-savvy dad brought great benefit to Dolly, but she strongly believes that the heart and intuition of a woman have strength all their own. “Just Because I'm a Woman” was the first single from Dolly Parton, and its intent aims to say “don't feel sorry for yourself when you look at me,” as Dolly Parton equates. “Think of all the hurt you might have caused somebody else.”

The artist also compares herself to Will Rogers, proclaiming: “I never met a man I didn't like,” although some measure more or less than others.

She credits her mother for her consistently positive outlook that “through God, all things are possible,” and interprets her mission as “to glorify Him and uplift mankind,” as Parton asks in her daily prayers, and that request is fulfilled by “writing good songs and doing good things.” Dolly recently made a $200,000 donation to Smoky Mountain firefighters to wrap up the drive she initiated through her My People Fund in 2016 after the tragic Tennessee wildfires near her Sevier County childhood home.

Dolly Parton and Kathie Lee Gifford share much more in common than their city of residence and love of music. They share the same simple, culinary weakness, too. Kathie Lee ventured to ask the songwriter what her weakness was, and in a flash, Dolly blurted “I guess potatoes!” to which Gifford agreed. Everyone has to savor the simple pleasures of life, including celebrated ladies with super hits and stratospheric record sales.

In the studio, tears came to Kathie Lee again as she recalled the encouragement from Dolly Parton over 41 years, recalling that Dolly, Barry Manilow, and Neil Sedaka were her cheering team in songwriting.

Hopefully, these new Nashville neighbors can spend more time writing and laughing together, maybe over a plate of potatoes, for years to come.

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