On This Day: Dolly Parton Released the Classic Album ‘Coat of Many Colors’ in 1971

by Clayton Edwards

Today, Dolly Parton is an icon. She’s country music royalty. However, her star shines too brightly to be contained in a single niche. As a result, she has become an inspiration to many. In fact, the State of Tennessee tried to erect a statue of her in front of the capitol building. She declined, though. She’s declined several honors that many other stars dream of. Parton cited several reasons, but it all boils down to her humility. Dolly has humble roots and he explored those roots in the title track of the album Coat of Many Colors.

Today, Coat of Many Colors turns fifty years old. To celebrate the launch of Dolly Parton’s eighth studio album and its iconic title track, we’re going to take a look back at that legendary record.

Recording Coat of Many Colors

Dolly Parton recorded Coat of Many Colors at Nashville’s RCA Studio B. It is fitting that she cut the iconic album in a studio with so much history. Dolly is just one of the many members of country music’s pantheon who worked behind those hallowed walls. Legends like Waylon Jennings, Chet Atkins, Marty Stuart, and many more all cut albums in that studio.

Unsurprisingly, Dolly Parton penned most of the songs on the album. In fact, she wrote seven of the ten songs included on the album’s original pressing. Porter Wagoner wrote the other three.

Dolly Parton’s Origin Story in a Song

“Coat of Many Colors,” was the second single from Dolly Parton’s then-untitled 1971 album. It made such a splash that Dolly knew it had to be the title track for the record.

In 2020, Dolly Parton sat down with Pitchfork to talk about some of her most iconic albums. Of course, Coat of Many Colors was on that list. She focused mostly on the title track when discussing the record. Parton said that it became the title track because it became a huge hit around the world. However, it wasn’t just the song’s success that inspired the decision. It was how much people related to the song and its story.

“Everybody related to that little song in one way or another,” she told the publication. The song is about being picked on for being different and poor. She said that many people reached out to her to say how much the song meant to them. For many, it was the beginning of a healing process.

Like Dolly Parton, the major hit had humble beginnings. Dolly wrote “Coat of Many Colors,” on a dry cleaning tag while on a tour bus. She was on the road with Porter Wagoner at the time. They stopped so he could get his suit from the cleaners. Shortly after he got back on the bus, Parton says, the song just came to her.

She snatched the tag off of Wagoner’s dry cleaning bag and started feverishly writing.

Today, “Coat of Many Colors,” is a hit song and an inspiration to countless people. Additionally, the song has been adapted into a children’s book and a made-for-TV movie.