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Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Monday, 20 February 2006

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton earned an Oscar nomination for her work this year
In a HardTalk Extra interview screened on 17th February, Gavin Esler spoke to legendary country singer, Dolly Parton.

Dolly Parton turned sixty this year and is still considered the reigning queen of country music.

One of Nashville's most successful singer-songwriters, her latest work has just earned her an Oscar nomination.

It's all a far cry from her humble beginnings in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains, one of twelve children who worked on a poor farmstead.

The theme of poverty inspired her earliest hits, like Coat of Many Colors.

She tells Gavin Esler why poverty in America still upsets her today, but why she will never enter politics.


Dolly Parton is Oscar nominated this year for writing and performing the song "Travelin' Thru", which is part of the soundtrack to the film Transamerica.

Dolly Parton told Gavin Esler that the nomination "came of out nowhere".

Of the song she said: "I wrote it kind of in a hurry. I was on tour when they asked me to write it, and I was recording and doing bunches of other things as well. I said I don't think I have time but they told me what it was about and what they wanted and I said well I'll give it a try."

Dolly Parton told Gavin Esler that she is looking forward to performing the song at the Oscars ceremony.

Those Were the Days

One of Nashville's most prolific singer-songwriters, Dolly Parton has written over three thousand songs.

But her latest album is a series of cover versions, called Those Were The Days. Many of them are anti-war, protest songs, including Imagine by John Lennon, and Where have all the flowers gone? by Pete Seeger.

"I got sick of my own songs!", Dolly Parton told Gavin Esler.

"It's not any kind of political statement, or anti- this or that, I was just amazed by how current those songs are."

Hardtalk Extra caught up with Dolly Parton at one of her homes in Nashville, Tennessee

Gavin Esler asked Dolly Parton if she saw parallels between the war in Iraq now, and the Vietnam war.

"I absolutely do. A lot of people compare the war that's going on now to the Vietnam war, but I wasn't trying to throw anything in anyone's face. I was just amazed how similar everything was and I was happy to get to put songs out there."

She told Gavin Esler she originally intended to record the covers simply for her own personal archival collection. But when they turned out well, she decided to release them.

The Dolly look

Gavin Esler asked Dolly Parton how it felt to turn sixty this year.

"I'm not sixty, I'm sexty!", she said.

"I think I'll look the same when I'm 70, or 80. I have a kind of cartoon look - you don't know how old a thing like me is!"

"I don't have time to get old, I'll never change".

She told Hardtalk Extra that she didn't believe the adage that "less is more".

"That's the biggest croque I've ever heard! More is more! And I want more!"

She told Gavin Esler that her look, like her voice, is not to everyone's taste. But "a lot of old boys" in Tennessee, she said, seem to like it.

Poverty in Tennessee

Dolly Parton's Foundation programme works for several charities to tackle poverty in Tennessee.

The Imagination programme combats child literacy in her home state, sending books out to children across Tennessee.

Dolly Parton told Hardtalk Extra that the level of poverty she experienced in her childhood still exists today.

"It's almost like a third world country in certain areas and I can say that because I'm from there, but people don't really realize it. There are starving children in some of these rural areas and we try and do a lot of work in terms of clothing and feeding those children."

"It's scary to think that in a country as great as America that there are areas, whether they're black or white, that there are people that go that poor, that hungry, that ragged, while we claim to be so many things to so many people."

"I get really upset about that some times."

HARDtalk Extra can be seen on BBC World at 0430 GMT, 0830 GMT, 1130 GMT, 1530 GMT, 1930 GMT, 0030 GMT.

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30.

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