Dolly Parton Looks Back on How Her Father Would Secretly Clean Her Hometown Statue

Dolly Parton wants everyone to get a little more exercise in the pandemic. In the new Apple Fitness+ Time to Walk experience, which debuts today, she shares stories, photos and songs that users can walk along to. "While many of us feel confined during this time," she says, "I'm hopeful that people will take a walk down memory lane with me and we can all feel a little more freedom taking the time to walk together." 

One story the nine-time Grammy winner shares is an intimate look at how her father—and his sense of humor—helped keep her humble. "I always feel like I got my work ethic from my dad," she says in the episode. Her dad was a sharecropper who later grew tobacco on his own land to support the family. (Parton was the fourth of 12 kids born to her mother, Avie, and father, Robert). "Daddy used to go down to the courthouse where they had erected a statue of me," she says. "I remember myself being so proud of that statue. … I thought, 'A statue of me in the courthouse yard? That's usually reserved for presidents and people that have done really great things like that.' So I went home and I said, 'Daddy did you know, they're putting a statue of me … down at the courthouse?' And Daddy said, 'Well yeah, I heard about that.' And he said, 'Now to your fans out there you might be some sort of an idol. But to them pigeons, you ain't nothing but another outhouse." 

Parton laughs at memory, but tells a touching coda to the story: how her father would take "a bucket of soapy water in the back of his pick-up truck" to clean the statue at night. "That touched me so much," she says. "I loved my daddy and wanted him to be proud of himself, as I was proud of him." She would later ask her father, who was illiterate, to help her launch her Imagination Library, which now gives books to children in need around the world. He loved her work on helping kids read more than her country-star status, she says.

The new Time to Walk program on Apple Fitness+ is launching with four bold-faced names—Parton, musician Shawn Mendes, Uzo Aduba from Orange Is the New Black, and the NBA's Draymond Green. Each of them takes listeners on a walk, sharing stories and music that inspires them. Photos from notable places along the walk also pop up automatically on Apple Watch.

Parton's walk features one of her best-known songs, "9 to 5," and the story of how she came to write it for the film. She says she had been offered movie roles several times but had turned them all down—until Jane Fonda came to her knowing the country star would help deliver a southern audience to a film with a mission of drawing attention to equal pay for women. With Lily Tomlin already signed on and Fonda, the film had "two big stars, so if it does good, I can take my part of the credit, and if it don't do good, I can just blame it on them," Parton laughs. "Nobody knew me in the movies anyway!" 

She still had one condition—that she would get the opportunity to write the theme song. "That was our deal, so that's what I did," Parton says in the episode. She uses her nails to make the sound of a washboard, explaining, "I thought this sounded like a typewriter, and since that movie was about women in the workplace, I'd stand on the set, I'd watch things happening, I'd come up with little lines every day. I'd go back to my hotel room at night and get my guitar and put it down on tape until after a couple months I had a song." She invited all the girls on the set to come to the recording studio to sing background. "And I played my nails—even on the record it says 'nails by Dolly'!" she says. "Anyhow everybody makes me do this all the time, play this little sound [of her nails like a washboard]. Of course you have to have acrylic nails, your own nails won't do that. You gotta have falsies!"

Time to Walk is available on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers. New episodes, which are 25 to 40 minutes each, will be available every Monday in the Workout app. For wheelchair users, Time to Walk becomes Time to Push. (Bluetooth headphones are required to pair with Apple Watch.)

"Since the very beginning of Fitness+, we have wanted it to be a service that is welcoming and inclusive…accommodating the beginner and experienced exerciser," Jay Blahnik, Apple's senior director of Fitness Technologies told PEOPLE. "Walking has always been on the front of our minds because it's the most popular activity in the world." This program allows people to go outside with just their Apple Watch, he adds, and the benefits go beyond the physical: "Walking can truly be the quintessential mindful moment. You may have a problem, you may have a stress, and a short walk or a long walk can oftentimes completely get you to a space where you are thinking about a problem differently or clearing your head."

Parton reiterates that idea in her walk: "You think good when you walk," she says. "I write a lot of songs when I walk."

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