"A belief in God is essential."
From the outside, Dolly Parton’s five decades in the spotlight have seemed like a breeze. But behind closed doors, the country music icon has experienced her fair share of pain. In a recent interview with Closer Weekly, Parton said credits her deep faith, forged during her humble Tennessee childhood, with getting her through the darkest points of her life.
In 1984, after years of gynecological woes, she underwent a partial hysterectomy and was told she’d never be able to have children with her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, who she married in 1966.
“It was a really bad time,” Parton, 72, recalled. “Sometimes God just has to smack you down. He was almost saying, ‘Sit your pretty little ass down because we have to deal with some stuff!’”
Parton admitted she sank into a two-year depression and was forced to take a step back from her career to focus on healing. It was around the same time that an emotional affair left her rattled and so heartbroken that at one point she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun.
"I looked at it a long time. Then, just as I picked it up, just to hold it, and look at it for a moment, our little dog, Popeye, came running up the stairs," she revealed. "The tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality, I suddenly froze and I put the gun down."
Thankful for the interruption, Parton began to pray. "I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God," she said. "I don’t think I’d have done it, killed myself, but I can't say for sure. Now that I've gone through that terrible moment, I can certainly understand the possibilities, even for someone solid like me, if the pain gets bad enough."
Parton insisted that it was her faith in God that truly saved her marriage. Now, decades later, Parton and Dean are nearing their 52nd anniversary, and prayer remains a large part of their daily lives. The couple even built their own little chapel on their farm in Brentwood, Tennessee. "She spends time there most every day she's home," a friend of Parton told Closer. "She not only prays there, but she often goes there to write spiritual songs. Carl goes as well, and it's their quiet place to reflect, pray, and give thanks."
Growing up the fourth of 12 children in the poverty-stricken Appalachian hills, Parton said she learned early on to rely on prayer to get her through life's crises. "A belief in God is essential," she concluded.