Dolly Parton is mourning the death of her uncle, Billy Earl Owens. The singer’s family member died on April 7 at the age of 85. Parton, 75, penned a heartfelt eulogy dedicated to her Uncle Bill on her website on Wednesday, expressing her sadness and saying farewell.
“I’ve lost my beloved Uncle Bill Owens. I knew my heart would break when he passed, and it did. I’ll start this eulogy by saying I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been there,” Parton began. “He was there… there in my young years to encourage me to keep playing my guitar, to keep writing my songs, to keep practicing my singing. And he was there to help build my confidence standing on stage where he was always standing behind me or close beside me with his big ol’ red Gretsch guitar.”
The “9 to 5” singer continued by sharing that he took her to local shows, got her her first job, took her back and forth to Nashville and “walked up-&-down the streets with me, knocking on doors to get me signed up to labels or publishing companies.”
“It’s really hard to say or to know for sure what all you owe somebody for your success. But I can tell you for sure that I owe Uncle Billy an awful lot,” she wrote, adding that he was “so many things,” loved music and that they wrote several songs together over the years.
“The biggest one being ‘Put It Off Until Tomorrow.’ We won our first big award on that one back in 1966. It was the BMI Song of the Year,” Parton shared. The country superstar went on to share some of her uncle’s accolades and called him “funny, friendly and generous.” “He always had a kind word for everybody and gave good advice to young people starting in the business,” she noted.
She concluded by writing that she bets a lot of their relatives “don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life.”
“But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true and for that I will be forever grateful,” she expressed. “I’m sure that Uncle Bill’s friends, fans, his wife Sandy, his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will join me when I say that we will always love you. Rest in peace, Uncle Bill.”
Uncle Bill’s death comes about two-and-a-half months after Parton’s brother, Randy Parton, died after a battle with cancer. He was 67.
“The family and I are grieving his loss but we know he is in a better place than we are at this time,” she wrote. “We are a family of faith and we believe that he is safe with God and that he is joined by members of the family that have gone on before and have welcomed him with joy and open arms.”
Upon sharing the news on Jan. 21, the singer described her brother as “a great singer, writer, and entertainer.” In fact, she shared, he played both guitar and bass in her band “for many years.”
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