Why country star and one-time Rotherham flat hunter Dolly Parton’s vaccine ‘gesture’ is so important - Anthony Clavane

There was a rumour doing the rounds in Rotherham, about a decade ago, that Dolly Parton was about to move to South Yorkshire.

File photo dated 29/06/14 of Dolly Parton, who has been inoculated by the Covid-19 vaccine she helped to fund. The beloved country music star, 75, broke into song while getting the jab and adapted one of her best-known ballads. Issue date: Tuesday March 2, 2021.

Whatever next? A sighting of Elvis at a fish-and-chip shop in Barnsley?  

The rumour got everyone excited. Especially when the mega-star told a Radio 4 presenter she had, indeed, been flat-hunting in the town.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In the programme, Dolly confirmed she was “looking for a little apartment”. Apparently, it would be “a great place for me to go and hide out… you may be walking down the streets of Rotherham and see me coming out of a little cubbyhole somewhere”.

The mega-star, alas, never moved to God’s Own County. Instead, she set up a branch of her reading programme, Imagination Library, which involved sending books every month to Rotherham’s young children.  

Such a philanthropic act is typical of the singer. The Radio 4 programme began: “Think of Dolly Parton, chances are two things will spring to mind: big hair and big hits.”  

But after becoming the latest celebrity to declare they have had a coronavirus vaccine, we should associate her with something else: big gestures.

Dolly being Dolly, she didn’t simply endorse the jab – she broke into song while getting it. To the tune of Jolene, she sang: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.”

Dolly being Dolly, she had already donated $1m to help develop the Moderna vaccine; according to research carried out in Nashville, it is nearly 95 percent effective.

Dolly being Dolly, she had refused to jump the queue to get a dose early.  

The 75-year-old Grammy-winner is more, much more, than a glamour queen, a musical trailblazer and a business genius who created Dollywood, her own theme park.

She donates books to kids, she supports great causes, she is a social unifier. So who better than this secular saint to tweet about being inoculated?  

As in this country, there are enough celebrity anti-vaxxers in the US spreading fake news about the so-called adverse effects of the jab.  

Which is why it was so important for such an iconic figure to not only speak up in defence of the vaccine – but also make her own inoculation such a social media event. As a national treasure, she is rightly doing her bit to encourage people to get a shot.

It’s great that national treasures are making a stand. In America, she is hugely influential; she’s like Sir David Attenborough in a peroxide wig and rhinestone-studded trouser suit.

With trust in the political elite at an all-time low – and anti-vaxxer sentiment rife on social media – we should thank knighted celebrities like Sir David, Sir Elton John, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Tony Robinson and Sir Ian McKellen for stepping up to the plate.

Their endorsements have contributed to the success of the UK’s vaccination programme. I am no fan of the Government, but it does appear we are on course to be the first major economy to inoculate its entire adult population. A speedier rollout, of course, would lead to a speedier end to lockdown restrictions.

Like many other countries, America could learn a few things from this country’s campaign. President Biden is facing a problem, bequeathed by Donald Trump, of a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths.

This is why the “big gesture” by everyone’s favourite country music star was so important.

Interestingly, Trump supporters tried to co-opt Parton as their poster girl.

She is, rightly, worshipped by her country base – which is well known for its conservatism.  

But in recent years she has come to be seen as a feminist icon. She came out in favour of gay marriage, a year before it was legalised nationwide, and has declared support for the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements.  

And, much to The Donald’s chagrin, she twice turned down his offer of the presidential medal of freedom – the highest US civilian honour.

Which is why, if I ever saw her coming out of a little cubbyhole in Rotherham, I would have no hesitation in singing: I Will Always Love You.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.