Skip to main content

Chart Rewind: In 1981, Dolly Parton Worked ‘9 to 5’ to No. 1 on the Hot 100

The smash hit and film helped transform Parton into a pop-culture star.

After a chance encounter with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda on a flight to New York helped Dolly Parton land a starring role in the 1980 female-empowerment comedy 9 to 5, the country music star found herself at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with the film’s theme song of the same name.

Parton wrote the tune to help pass time on set (as she found the pace of filming slower and less stimulating than that of a musical performer), and it topped the Hot Country Songs chart dated Jan. 24, 1981, and the Hot 100 dated Feb. 21. It became only the second song by a female artist to lead both lists, after Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” in 1968. At the 24th annual Grammy Awards, “9 to 5” won for best country song and best country vocal performance, female.


Meanwhile, the success of the film, which grossed over $100 million, helped spark Parton’s ascent to multimedia ubiquity, as she went on to star in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Steel Magnolias, among other movies. She returned to No. 1 on both Hot Country Songs and the Hot 100 in 1983 with “Islands in the Stream,” her Bee Gees-written Kenny Rogers duet.

“I’ve been trying all these years to win my musical freedom so I could introduce myself to a more universal audience,” Parton told Billboard in 1982. “Now, with the movies I’m doing, I have the security and money to do the kind of records I’ve always wanted to do.”

Parton, who boasts the most No. 1s on Hot Country Songs among women in the chart’s history, with 25, performed “9 to 5” as part of a star-studded tribute to her music at the 61st Grammy Awards in 2019.

Of songwriting, Parton told Billboard in late 2020, “It’s something I love to do. I love thinking I’m putting something in the world today that wasn’t there yesterday, and hopefully will be there forever.”

This article has been updated.