Dolly Parton is mourning the loss of her uncle, Bill Owens, after he passed away on April 7 at the age of 85. The Tennessee native credits her late uncle for giving her a glowing start in the music industry.
“I’ll start this eulogy by saying I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been there. He was there… there in my young years to encourage me to keep playing my guitar, to keep writing my songs, to keep practicing my singing. And he was there to help build my confidence standing on stage where he was always standing behind me or close beside me with his big ol’ red Gretsch guitar,” she began.
Parton went on the list many of the shows and appearances her uncle took her to, crediting him in large part to her success in music.
“It’s really hard to say or to know for sure what all you owe somebody for your success. But I can tell you for sure that I owe Uncle Billy an awful lot.”
She “I Will Always Love You” singer went on to share more of Owens’ life, explaining that he was a musician of his own merit. He penned over 800 songs during his life, some recorded by Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Porter Wagoner, Kris Kristofferson and more. He also co-wrote “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” with Parton and earned them BMI Song of the Year in 1966, their first-ever big award win.
Owens was also an integral part of the Dollywood family and worked with the company, The American Chestnut Foundation, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and The American Eagle Foundation to bring the chestnut tree back to their home state.
“I bet a lot of our own relatives don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life. But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true and for that I will be forever grateful. I’m sure that Uncle Bill’s friends, fans, his wife Sandy, his kids, grandkids and great grandkids will join me when I say that we will always love you. Rest in peace, Uncle Bill.”
The loss is another big one for the legendary singer as she lost her brother Randy in January after a battle with cancer. Randy played guitar in Parton’s band for years and also led show of his own at her Dollywood theme park.
While she deals with these massive losses, Parton has plenty of positive to focus on. She helped push along research for a COVID-19 vaccine, resulting in the Moderna injection, which she just received the second dose of herself. A concert special from her MusiCares Person of the Year celebration, Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute, debuted today (4/7) on Netflix. Additionally, Parton recently teamed up with Jeni’s Ice Cream to create a brand new flavor called Strawberry Pretzel Pie. Proceeds from the sales of the new flavor will help raise money for Parton’s Imagination Library.