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Parton sang for Wagoner in final hours
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dolly Parton said Monday she feels like a part of her died along with her old duet partner, Porter Wagoner. But she said she was grateful that she was able to spend a few final hours with the man who launched her career before he succumbed to cancer Sunday.
“Part of him will always live through me and my music as he was my first big break,” Parton said.
The 80-year-old Grand Ole Opry star and showman died of lung cancer Sunday in a Nashville hospice, after being transferred there Friday from a hospital.
Parton said she was there with his family, sang for him and prayed with him.
“It felt good that I had the opportunity to say goodbye properly,” Parton said.
Wagoner had a streak of hits in the 1960s and ’70s, and enjoyed a comeback in recent months with a new album.
To many longtime fans, though, he may be best remembered for his sparkly rhinestone suits and for singing with Parton on his TV show from 1967 to 1974.
Marty Stuart, who produced Wagoner’s last album, the critically acclaimed “Wagonmaster,” said he grew up watching his TV show and they later became close friends.
Stuart was one of the musicians who backed Wagoner this summer when he opened for the influential rock group the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden, a show that underscored the aging singer’s newfound popularity with a fresh wave of young fans.
“He was a masterful showman who understood the art of the final act,” Stuart said. “He left the world on top.”
Stuart said Wagoner had been invited to light the nation’s Christmas tree at the Pageant of Peace celebration in Washington, D.C., next month.
“One of the last things he said to me was, ‘You’re gonna have to call the president and tell him I won’t be able to sing him any Christmas songs this year. Maybe next year,'” Stuart recalled.
Country music singer Patty Loveless said Wagoner was a mentor to her in her early years and became like family to her.
“He encouraged me and helped me to fulfill my dreams and was truly an inspiration,” Loveless said. “I love him and I miss him already.”
The Grand Ole Opry announced Monday that funeral arrangements would be open to the public. Visitation will be Wednesday at a local funeral home, with a funeral on Thursday at the Grand Ole Opry House.