Even though invitations to “the cookout” are almost always a topic of contention in our community, I’d like to add yet another person to the guest list: Dolly Parton. Now before you get in a tizzy, allow me to explain why.
According to the Washington Post, Parton recently revealed what she did with the royalties she received from Whitney Houston’s cover of her 1973 hit, “I Will Always Love You.” The song, which appeared on the soundtrack to the Kevin Costner, Whitney-Houston led film The Bodyguard, rose to fame thanks largely in part to Houston’s angelic vocals. Parton earned a minimum of $10 million in royalties, according to Forbes, the Post notes. Once the money started rolling in, Parton decided against saving it all for herself and instead invested it in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Nashville, Tenn.
During an interview on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, Parton revealed that she invested in a neighborhood called Sevier Park because it felt like “the perfect place for her to be.”
“It was a whole strip mall, and I thought this is the perfect place for me to be, considering it was Whitney,” Parton explained in part to Cohen. “So I just thought, ‘This is great, I’m just going to be down here with her people, who are my people as well. I love the fact that I spent that money on a complex and I think, ‘This is the house that Whitney built.’”
According to property records, Parton bought the 6,317-square-foot Mission-style complex in Sevier Park, now known as 12 South, back in 1997. That decision, says longtime Nashville historian Dave Ewing, ended up playing a large part in changing the perception and landscape to an area that was known to house multiple African-American-owned funeral homes, churches, and businesses.
“We’re just hearing now, because of the Black Lives Matter movement, how down for the cause Dolly has always been—even when others in the music industry weren’t,” Ewing told the Washington Post. “Dolly Parton could have built and bought any piece of property in Nashville. But you would have to have gone out of your way to buy in the 12 South neighborhood because no Realtor would have shown Dolly that lot to buy.”
He later added, “12 South is one of the hottest neighborhoods in Nashville. But it really kind of all began to be put on the map when Dolly quietly invested in the area.”