Dolly Parton is just as well-known for her charitable deeds as she is for her iconic music. The country singer and philanthropist isn’t only one of the most generous millionaire celebs during COVID-19 (and otherwise), but she’s also quietly reinvested money the right way when profiting off of Black musicians’ contributions (a departure for an industry that has a long-standing history doing the opposite).
Now, the “Jolene” singer shared that, back in 1997, she invested some of the royalties she’d earned from Whitney Houston’s cover of her “I Will Always Love You” song into an office complex in a historically Black neighbourhood in Nashville, Tennessee. The neighbourhood has since experienced a revitalization with thriving entertainment, restaurants and residential communities.
While Parton wrote the song, Houston made it to the mainstream with her memorable performance in the movie The Bodyguard, co-starring Kevin Costner.
Parton shared on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen that this seemed a fitting way to honour the Black singer who raised the song’s profile, making it the best-known cover of the song ever.
“It was mostly just Black families and people that lived around there,” Parton said. “It was a whole strip mall. And I thought, ‘This is the perfect place for me to be, considering it was Whitney.'” The response came about after Cohen asked what’s the best thing she’s bought with the royalties made on the song.
While, of course, more can (and should) be done to invest in Black communities, this is one step in the right direction that will hopefully set a positive example for others in the industry. Houston’s rendition reportedly earned Parton $10 million in song royalties during the 1990s, according to Forbes. Houston died in an accidental drowning in a hotel in 2012. She was 48.
Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” in 1972 — the same day as one of her other best-known songs, “Jolene.”