Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” – The Beginning

Published November 23, 2015 / Last Updated October 15, 2020
Tim and Mary Alice Lovelace are a husband/wife writing duo who enjoy co-writing songs, news articles, and short stories.

The history and meaning behind Dolly Parton’s “Coat Of Many Colors”

When Dolly’s mother took a box of rags that someone had given her and sewed them into a patchwork coat of love for her daughter, she didn’t know she was setting her on a path that would become one of the most beautifully woven tapestries in the history of American music.

Dolly began songwriting at the tender age of five and has been on a magical journey of melody and rhyme ever since. Songwriting is part of the fabric of who Dolly is. For songwriters, some songs can take years to write, while others can be crafted in just a few hours. However, there are those special few that are woven in what seems to be a moment’s time. Dolly’s beloved “Coat of Many Colors” is one such song.

The year was 1969, and she was on tour with country music legend Porter Wagoner, who was widely known for his iconic rhinestone-clad stage clothes. She was riding on the tour bus when the inspiration for “Coat of Many Colors” overcame her. Ironically, the only paper available to her was Porter’s dry cleaning receipts from his designer, one-of-a-kind coats, so she grabbed a pen and started writing! The song that poured out of her soul that day was about her own one-of-a-kind coat; a coat that gave her determination and wrapped her with confidence in the riches of a mother’s love.

As the song says, Dolly’s mother told her the Old Testament story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Just like Joseph rose above the cruelty of others in his youth and went on to achieve his purpose in life, Dolly rose above the scoffers in the schoolyard and lives her life to encourage others to rise above their circumstances and to dream more…and it all started with a box of rags and a mother’s love.

Dolly Parton, Avie Lee Parton
Dolly Parton's "Coat Of Many Colors" replica displayed in her Chasing Rainbows museum at Dollywood theme park.
Dolly Parton, Avie Lee Parton
Original dry cleaning receipts used by Dolly Parton to write her now-famous song, "Coat Of Many Colors." The receipts were donated to the Chasing Rainbows museum by Porter Wagoner.
Porter Wagoner
Porter Wagoner, known for his iconic rhinestone clad stage clothes, chooses his outfit for "The Porter Wagoner Show."
Porter Wagoner
NBC: Coat of Many Colors
NBC: Coat of Many Colors

RAW Video: Emotional Dolly Parton performing “Coat Of Many Colors”

Footage courtesy of Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum Nashville

Dolly Parton performs “Coat Of Many Colors” after her induction to the “Country Music Hall Of Fame.” Alison Krauss & Union Station were on hand during the ceremony to lend their beautiful talents to the performance.

Artist illustration by Lacinda Smith.

The LovelacesDolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” – The Beginning