Garth Brooks, Brandi Carlile, Miley Cyrus, Shawn Mendes, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Katy Perry, Pink, Chris Stapleton and Don Henley were among those honoring the 73-year-old singer-songwriter two days before the Grammy Awards.
"All of my life I have been known for two things. Well, not them," the well-endowed Parton joked in a bawdy acceptance speech. "I've also been known as a singer and songwriter too. Although I'm not complaining. Ol' Pancho and Lefty's been pretty good to me. Everybody always expects me to do a boob joke and I like to do that right up front."
Surprising Parton with her award and earning a standing ovation were Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, who teamed with Parton for two successful "Trio" albums. It was a rare public appearance for Ronstadt, who can't sing anymore because of Parkinson's disease, which Parton mentioned.
"It has been a wonderful journey," Parton said. As Parton rushed to embrace Harris and Ronstadt, her award crashed to the floor. It appeared to survive intact. Parton said people ask her about it being a man's world when she got into the music business in the 1960s.
"I never met a man that I didn't like and I never met a man whose (rear) I couldn't kick if he didn't treat me with the right respect," she said, drawing raucous cheers. Earlier, Parton watched from the audience while other performers sampled her vast catalog.
Wearing a black jacket with Parton's visage on the back, Pink kicked off the evening with a powerhouse rendition of the man-stealing song "Jolene." Gospel singer Yolanda Adams received a standing ovation for "I Will Always Love You," the Parton-penned song famously covered by Whitney Houston.
"Yolanda, you killed that," said Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. Cyrus, who is Parton's goddaughter, and Mendes dueted on "Islands in the Stream" with Mark Ronson on guitar. Grammy nominee Carlile and Nelson sang "Everything's Beautiful (In Its Own Way)."
"We love you, Doll," Nelson said. Backed by a horn section, Stapleton tackled "9 to 5," getting the audience clapping along to Parton's ode to empowered yet challenged working women. Musgraves and Perry teamed up on "Here You Come Again," with Perry decked out in lilac fringe with matching boots and cowboy hat.
"We want to be just like her when we grow up," Perry told the crowd. Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood teamed up on "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle To You," sealing it with a kiss. Henley and Vince Gill strummed guitars on "Eagle When She Flies."
Backed by a choir, Leon Bridges and Mavis Staples took the crowd to church on "Not Enough." Bridges got into the spirit of the evening with white cowboy boots and a denim jacket with his name and a white horse on the back and red barn patch on the front.
"It's been such a thrill for me tonight to see all these great artists singing songs I've written or been a part of," Parton said. "Watching them is sort of like watching porn. You're not personally involved but you still get off on it."
The crowd roared and Parton said, "Hey, don't blame me. At my age you'll take anything you can get." She closed the evening by performing "Coat of Many Colors. "I had my nails too long to pick tonight because I'm gettin' ready for the Grammys," Parton explained in having Linda Perry play guitar.
Friday's dinner and auction at the Los Angeles Convention Center generated more than $6.7 million, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said. MusiCares, run by the Recording Academy, provides financial assistance to individuals in the music industry during times of financial, medical and personal need.
"Of course you know we hillbillies need MusiCares too," Parton said. "We may not have sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, but two out of three ain't bad."