Reporting by Rick Egusquiza.

As the fourth of 12 children growing up in rural Tennessee, Dolly Parton relied on her family for companionship, support, community and love. Now, she’s repaying their devotion with a group of projects that share the spotlight with them. “My uncle Bill Owens was by my side for many years, helping me develop my music,” says Dolly, 78. “I owe so much to him and all the family members, past and present, who have inspired me along this journey.”

Dolly Parton & Family: Smoky Mountain DNA – Family, Faith & Fables is an album and docuseries due out in November that trace Dolly’s family tree from Great Britain in the 1600s to Sevier County, Tennessee, and reveal the passion for music they all inherited. “Dolly is getting older and, she’ll tell you this herself, but the closer you get to dying the more you think about your family and your legacy,” says a friend of the star. “She wanted to honor her roots and the people who inspired her along the way. She wouldn’t be where she is today without them.”

Chief among the people Dolly honors is Bill Owens, a musician and songwriter who died in 2021. “He took me back and forth to Nashville through the years,” says Dolly, “knocking on doors to get me signed up to labels or publishing companies.”

Bill, whose songs were recorded by Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson and more, is just one of the family members represented on the new album, which was produced by Dolly’s cousin Richie Owens. “Family members, living and ones who have passed on, [will appear on the album] via recordings she has,” explains the friend. “I don’t know if any famous country stars are on the album, but they’ll probably pop up in the docuseries.”

In September, Dolly will also release a family cookbook with her sister Rachel Parton George called Good Lookin’ Cookin’: A Year of Meals. “I love good cooking, but not as much as I love my sister Rachel,” says Dolly. “So, getting to combine the two was a joy beyond belief for me.”

The book shares family recipes, American classics and tips on entertaining. “Rachel is the big cook in the family,” explains the friend. “Dolly is really close to her, which is why she’s helping her with the launch of their new cookbook.”

Inside Dolly Parton’s Family Life

When Dolly hit the big time as a songwriter, performer and 11-time Grammy winner, she didn’t turn her back on her family. In the 1970s when she had her own eponymous variety show, her parents and siblings were among her first guests. “Most of the folks that you see behind me are my brothers and sisters, and the two folks responsible for all of us: my mom and daddy,” she told the audience.

Dolly Parton Will ‘Honor' Roots in Upcoming Album, Docuseries

As Dolly has thrived, so have her family. They have been part of her staff, played in her band, worked at Dollywood and more. “No one really knows how much Dolly helps her family financially because she would never discuss it,” confides the friend. “She just likes to say that her blessings are her family’s blessings. Put it this way: She’s good at sharing.”

For Dolly, honoring the past is also a way to keep that family connection alive for the younger generations. “When I started to make it, I thought if I ever did make it, I wanted to bring something back to my home,” Dolly explains. “I wanted to be able to provide jobs for people.”