Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”

1968 | Peak: #25

A frighteningly candid depiction of Parton’s impoverished childhood.

Going to bed hungry. Watching her mother suffer with illness because they can’t afford a doctor.  Working from sunrise to sunset, only to see a hail storm destroy your crops.

This isn’t the charming idealization of “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, or even the dogged resilience of “Coat of Many Colors.”  This is poor people trying to get by against insurmountable odds, walking the tight rope without a safety net.

It’s the same story that could be told by any one of the 44 million Americans today who live below the poverty line.

There will be a lucky few who beat the odds like Parton did, and her words will surely ring true:  “No amount of money could buy from me the memories that I have of then. No amount of money could pay me to go back and live through it again.”

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: A

Listen: In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)








  1. Yes indeed, Dolly’s childhood story would very easily parallel those living under the poverty line.

    And country radio today would, in my opinion, totally ignore such a song.

  2. Great song , one of Dolly’s best, although I liked Merle Haggard’s version (an album track) even more than I liked Dolly’s version

  3. This is one of the things that people like so much (myself included) about older country music was that it told the truth warts and all. I hardly think that a song like this would be put out on an album these days by any mainstream country artist, and country music is the lesser for it.

  4. An almost perfect song. Dolly re-recorded this in 1973 for her “My Tennessee Mountain Home” album and that is my favorite version of this song. The Merle version is very good too.

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