Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors is her most personal song to date. It tells the story of the singer’s upbringing in rural Tennessee and how a coat her mother made for her out of various rags and scraps had become her most prized possession. Though she considers Coat of Many Colors to be one of her favorite songs, Parton struggled to perform the track after her mother’s death as it reminded her of how close they were and the love they had for each other.
‘Coat of Many Colors’ holds a special place in Dolly Parton’s heart
Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. While growing up, Parton and her family were very poor. They lived in a one-bedroom shack with no electricity or running water.
Since they didn’t have money for a lot of things, Parton’s mother and father used many of the resources around them to ensure that their children were well taken care of.
In her song Coat of Many Colors, Parton tells the story of how her mother, Avie Lee Caroline, made her a coat out of scrap pieces of material to keep her warm at school.
“In order to make me proud of that little coat, I know now, she told me the story about Joseph from the Bible and his coat of many colors,” the singer recalled in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “So I thought, ‘Well, if it’s from the Bible, and Joseph was an important person, it has to be very special and important.’”
As the song goes, once Parton got to school with her coat, her classmates made fun of her for it. At first, Parton was angry at her mother for making her believe that her jacket was special. But after her mother assured her of the significance of the coat, the singer was proud of it once again.
When Dolly Parton’s mother died in 2003, she had a tough time performing ‘Coat of Many Colors’
Early on in her career, Parton often performed Coat of Many Colors on stage as it’s one of her favorite and most personal songs she’s ever written. However, after her mother died in 2003, the singer couldn’t bring herself to sing the song as her emotions often got the better of her.
“When she passed away I could not sing that song for probably three to six months without crying when I was singing it,” she told WENN, per Country Rebel. “Seriously, I could not sing that song without thinking of everything my momma had ever done to make us all feel loved. “
Though it’s been years since her mother died, Parton admitted that she still finds it difficult to sing the song at times.
“Every time I sing that song it depends on what kind of place I’m at in my life,” she shared.
Dolly Parton admits that ‘Coat of Many Colors’ still makes her emotional
Though it’s gotten easier for her to sing Coat of Many Colors, the song still reminds Parton of her mother’s love and legacy whenever she performs it.
While the singer has been able to get through the song without crying over the last few years, that wasn’t the case when she and her family first watched the Coat of Many Colors movie.
The family had a private viewing before the film was released, as Parton knew that she would be an emotional wreck when watching it for the first time.
“We just cried our eyes out,” Parton said. “When we got out of the car and walking up the steps we were thinking, ‘We’re going in here to watch ourselves, watch our family, mom and daddy.’”
There’s no question that Parton still misses her mother very much, but thanks to Coat of Many Colors, her memory and legacy will live on forever.
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