Country music’s effervescent icon, Dolly Parton, turns 70 Tuesday. The fourth of 12 children born to humble beginnings in the mountains of East Tennessee first appeared at the Grand Ole Opry at just 12 years old. She has since released over 100 singles, 42 studio albums, a handful of live albums and holiday sets, nearly 20 collaboration albums, and 180-plus compilation albums. (These accolades, of course, ignore her resume of movie and television roles, her acumen as a producer, and her longstanding activist convictions.)
In honor of the Country Music Hall of Famer’s big day, EW has ranked all 23 of her No. 1 singles from awesome to most awesome. Check them out below.
GALLERY: See Dolly Parton Through the Years
23. “Real Love,” featuring Kenny Rogers, 1985
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have one of the longest, most fruitful relationships in music. They first collaborated in 1983 on “Islands in the Stream” — ranked later in this list — and continue to work together, 33 years later. “Real Love” came early in their partnership and has the electric charm of a new relationship, but all the humor that comes with an old one.
22. “Heartbreaker,” 1978
Written by Grammy and Academy Award-winning lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, “Heartbreaker” was one of Parton’s most straightforward pop plays. It broke into the Top 40 on the mainstream chart, becoming her third crossover hit, but Nashville didn’t leave her behind — it went No. 1 there.
21. “Yellow Roses,” 1989
Love at first sight is one of the most prevalent themes in Parton’s catalog. One of her cutest anecdotes? When a boy asked her out, offering her a single yellow rose along with his hope of a date. Careful though, the song takes a turn in the third verse, when she sings, “You said goodbye like you said hello/With a single yellow rose.”
20. “Rockin’ Years,” featuring Ricky Van Shelton, 1991
While the title might make you think you’re about to get an uptempo stomper detailing the sordid adventures of your early twenties, the “Rockin’ Years” Parton wants to talk about are when she and her man are old, grey, and relegated to the swing of their porch chairs. “Rockin’ chairs, rockin’ babies, rock-a-bye, rock of ages/Side-by-side, we’ll be together always,” she and Ricky Van Shelton croon.
19. “To Know Him Is To Love Him,” with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, 1987
Off the three stars’ collaborative, Grammy-winning album, Trio, this tune sees Parton returning to musical roots: twangy acoustics and gorgeous harmonies. To know him might be to love him, and the same can be said of this song.
18. “Think About Love,” 1985
“When you think about love, think about me,” Parton sings on this pop-country killer. Several decades into her love song-spattered body of music, Parton wasn’t asking for much of a favor. In fact, when she delivers the hair-flipping line, “I can give you more than you’ll ever need,” listeners realize it’s all more of a command than a request.
17. “Love Is Like A Butterfly,” 1974
There was a time when “Butterfly” was considered Parton’s signature song. With no insult to the track, that was a time that clearly couldn’t see how much more Parton had to offer the world.
16. “Starting Over Again,” 1980
Parton is a master at charm, but she’s no one-trick pony. “Starting Over Again” is a delicate account of divorce, from the perspective of a young child — one who just wants to put “mommy and daddy” back together again — that could moisten even a statue’s eye.
15. “The Bargain Store,” 1974
This is one of Parton’s most famous songs — perhaps because of the minor controversy attached to the lyrics: She likens her life to a (yep, you guessed it) bargain store and the line, “you can easily afford the price,” set a few country radio heads off, thinking it was a reference to prostitution. The hubbub, though, didn’t stop the tune from hitting No. 1.
14. “When I Get Where I’m Going,” with Brad Paisley, 2005
This hit came many decades into the singer’s career and in that light, is the best display of her girlish soprano’s enduring magnetism, which has yet to lose anything off the top of its register. Wherever you’re going, Dolly, we want in.
13. “I Really Got The Feeling,” 1978
Parton’s 10th country No. 1 was a mid-tempo ballad about love at first sight that swings like a porch swing on a breezy day.
12. “But You Know I Love You,” 1981
Parton was covering Kenny Rogers, who would soon become one of her most frequent collaborators, when she cut this classic. Rogers propelled it to the Top 20 on the country charts, but the song needed the pint-sized blonde’s version to get to No. 1.
11. “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right,” 1978
It’s perhaps the most delicate and sexy song in the legendary performer’s canon. She begs a man for a one-night stand, unable to cope with her loneliness for even one second longer — by the end, you just might think it’s a fine idea, too.
10. “Here You Come Again,” 1977
Parton made her formal pop introduction in 1977 and didn’t disappoint. The piano ditty became her first crossover No. 1 and an instant classic. “You waltz right in the door/Just like you’ve done before And wrap my heart ‘round your little finger.” Don’t we know it!
9. “Islands In The Stream,” with Kenny Rogers, 1983
Penned by the Bee Gees (and later cut on their 1998 live album) and performed with Kenny Rogers, “Islands” is a perfect display of how Parton can make any track not just her own, but indelibly better. Co-writer Robin Gibb famously told ABC News that they had originally intended the tune for Marvin Gaye, picturing it with classic R&B sound, but Rogers snapped it up.
8. “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That,” 1989
Did you think Luke Bryan was the first Music City singer to wax poetic about a pair of painted on jeans? Peep Parton’s cheeky 1989 tune where she’ll tell you all the reasons she can’t get one particular cowboy, “dressed like a cowgirl’s dream” with “a mean streak half a mile wide” out of her head.
7. “I Will Always Love You,” 1974 and 1982
One of the most loved, covered (Linda Rondstadt, Whitney Houston), and profitable songs in American music came from Parton’s professional split with her longtime mentor and partner Porter Wagoner. When the song was re-released in 1982 on the soundtrack to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, she became the first artist to ever have a No. 1 record twice with the same tune.
6. “Tennessee Homesick Blues,” 1984
Parton wrote the twangy tune for her role in Rhinestone, but feeling like a dull penny in a far too shiny world is a recurring theme in her catalog. The lyric, “Good Lord, have mercy on a country girl/Tryin’ to make a living in a rhinestone world,” might make you want to scoff, but, “I wish I had my old fishin’ pole/And was sitting on the banks of the fishing hole Eating green apples and waiting for the fish to bite,” just might break your heart first.
5. “You’re The Only One,” 1979
This song came during the peak of Parton’s crossover appeal and it’s a perfect melting pot of her country roots — slide guitar accents are heavy-handed, and there’s no mistaking that accent — and power-pop gloss.
4. “9 to 5,” 1980
Paired with her first acting role in the revenge comedy of the same name with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, Parton’s tune went No. 1 on the pop and country charts — making her just the second female to reach the pinnacle of both lists with the same song. The singer was nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy but the track’s biggest legacy remains that it became an anthem for female office workers in the U.S. who wanted to advocate for better treatment.
3. “Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You),” 1980
Joe Sun and Brian Collins both recorded this one before Parton, but she was the first to take it to No. 1 on the country charts. A woman would hardly be encouraged to release a song about telling her new man to forget about all her ex-lovers in 2015, much less 1980, but just try telling that to Parton.
2. “Joshua,” 1970
The singer’s first country No. 1 came in the form of “Joshua,” a charming tale about a precocious country girl (one wonders where she got the inspiration) who dares to visit a local recluse despite, but also due to, his reputation as a “mean or vicious man.” It’s all the cheeky charm of the Appalachian folk songs Parton grew up with and the tight handiwork of her adopted hometown.
1. “Jolene,” 1973
Crafting a stunning account of one of our ugliest emotions — jealousy — is no small or simple feat. Rightfully, then, Parton’s desperate tale, where she begs Jolene, a stunning woman, not to steal her man, did not go unnoticed. It topped the U.S. country charts, did well on the pop charts, and even crossed the pond, becoming her first Top 10 hit in the UK. It’s the most covered song in the Dolly Parton catalog with renditions cut by The White Stripes, Olivia Newton-John, Ellie Goulding, Miley Cyrus, and more.
Listen to all her No.1’s here.