Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, “Coat of Many Colors”

1971 | Peak: #4

It’s doubtful that any record could be universally agreed upon as the greatest country single ever made.  But any conversation on that topic would have to include serious consideration of “Coat of Many Colors.”

It’s also doubtful that I can add anything meaningful to the conversation about the song itself.  Better writers and historians have already covered it all, so much so that I can’t separate what I’ve read about it from whatever original thoughts I might have.

I will say that whenever I think about the autobiographical events in the song, it makes me sad.  But when I actually listen to it, there’s an optimism that shines through.   Maybe it’s just the perspective of having seen some success by the time she recorded it.

Or maybe the song taps into her resilient inner child, the one who had the strength to endure such humiliation without knowing what a bright future lay ahead of her.

Despite all the achievements and accolades she’s earned, “Coat of Many Colors” suggests that Parton’s finest moment might have been in that classroom all those years ago.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: A

Next: “Burning the Midnight Oil” (with Porter Wagoner)

Previous: “My Blue Tears”



  1. Dolly Parton the human being comes alive here. This is a song and a performance that makes you want to settle back and live the reality of its message for a moment. Her song writing and performance bring out a sincerity unmatched by almost every modern day popular music song, regardless of genre.

  2. My favorite Dolly Parton song is “Romeo,” the one with Billy Ray Cyrus in the video. Now that song is a true classic, and it is when she reached her creative peak

  3. Salt in my Tears was my favorite Dolly Parton song for years… largely because it was the only one of her videos that aired on CMT during my musically formative years. Even now, after having discovered Jolene by way of Mindy Smith, realized that Coat of Many Colors was a Dolly Parton song, and laughed at her novelty song I’ll Oilwells Love You, Salt in My Tears still holds a special place in my heart.

  4. My favorite Dolly Parton song by far. I lived this story myself to a certain extent as a child. Between worn out hand me downs that didn’t fit and clothes Mom made for me from fabric that didn’t cost a lot, I endured a lot of taunts and ridicule from classmates. I remember hearing Dolly’s song when I was younger and it helped me deal with it all. Thank you, Dolly.

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