Dolly Parton

Coat of Many Colors

Composed by Dolly Parton

Song Review by

In this day and age, modern country music can sometimes seem little more than polished pop with a hint of steel guitar. And with all the glitter of modern country, it's all the more evident why old-fashioned country music is so deeply missed by critics and fans alike. Country music, much like gangsta rap, gained its large following with extremely deep and personal revelations in its songwriting. Artists didn't change their lyrics to fit a more mainstream, suburban crowd -- they wrote about the triumphs and pain of a forgotten agricultural, old-fashioned America with subtle, direct, and hard-hitting anecdotes. One of the leading showcases of country's true emotional power is none other than Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," one of her most well-known and loved songs. Parton wrote the ballad while reminiscing about a childhood in poverty, where her mother had made her a coat out of colored rags. Though Parton writes that her school chums laughed at her unfortunate status, it's obvious that she, even when looking back, doesn't understand why. After all, she sings, "I was rich as I could be in my coat of many colors," later stating that "one is only poor if they choose to be." What makes the song so powerful is that it's easy to believe she still feels this way -- even as she enters adulthood and bitter reality, Parton is still able to appreciate the joy of life found in the blissful remembrance of childhood, when life revolved around love, not material possessions. Rarely has a country song been able to combine the core ideas of poverty, family, and faith in such a beautiful way, making "Coat of Many Colors" not only a memorable country staple, but a fine testament to Parton's incredibly influential talents as a songwriter.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Just Because I'm a Woman 1968 BMG Heritage 3:19
Coat of Many Colors 1971 BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Distribution
The Best of Dolly Parton [1975] 1975 RCA 3:02
No Image 1976 RCA
No Image 1977 RCA
No Image 1982 BMG
No Image 1985 RCA
The Best There Is 1987 BMG Special Products 3:05
The Love Album 1989 RCA 3:03
Country U.S.A.: 1971 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Smithsonian Collection of Classic Country Music, Vol. 3 1991
Various Artists
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 3:02
The RCA Years 1967-1986 1993 RCA 3:02
Collection [Castle] 1993 Castle Music Ltd. 3:03
Heartsongs: Live from Home 1994 Music Mill/Sony BMG 4:20
The Essential Dolly Parton, Vol. 2 1997 RCA 3:04
A Life in Music: The Ultimate Collection 1997 RCA 3:07
The Ultimate Collection 1997 BMG International 3:05
American Pie: Great Tales & Sagas in Song 1998
Various Artists
Reader's Digest Music 3:06
Super Hits, Vol. 2 1999 RCA 3:04
Greatest Hits [Columbia River] 1999 Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:02
Super Hits [1999] 1999 Sony Music 3:10
Classic Country: 1970-1974 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:05
Classic Country: 1970-1974 [2 CD 1999 #1] 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:06
Country Countdown: Country Family 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 3:08
Legendary Dolly Parton 2000 Camden 3:06
History of Country Music: Best of the '70s 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:06
Great Women of Country 2000
Various Artists
Green Hill Productions / CD Baby 3:06
Mission Chapel Memories 1971-1975 2001 Raven
70's Country Hits [BMG Special Products] 2002
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 3:03
Best of the Best 2002 Federal Records 3:05
Classic Country: More Great Story Songs 2002
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:06
The Very Best of Country Radio 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:06
Country Legends 2002 Green Hill Productions 3:05
Ultimate Dolly Parton 2003 RCA 3:04
The Bluegrass Collection 2003 Camden
The Very Best of Love 2004 Madacy 3:05
Country's 20 Classic Gospel: Songs of the Century 2004
Various Artists
New Haven 3:05
Platinum & Gold Collection 2004 BMG Heritage / RCA 3:05
Classic Country: God, Family, Country 2004
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:05
The Only Dolly Parton Album You'll Ever Need 2004 Sony BMG 3:04
Live and Well [DVD] 2004 Sugar Hill
Artist Collection: Dolly Parton 2004 BMG / BMG International 3:05
The Essential Dolly Parton 2005 BMG Heritage 3:04
Superstars of Country: Good Ol' Songs 2005
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:05
The Very Best of Dolly Parton [BMG 2007] 2007 RCA 3:05
Very Best of Dolly Parton [Holland Import] 2007 BMG
Superstars of Country [Time Life] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:05
Opry Video Classics: Legends 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Jolene/Coat of Many Colors 2008 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:06
Dolly Parton [Legacy] 2008 Legacy 3:06
Playlist: The Very Best of Dolly Parton 2008 Sony Music
Collector's Edition 2008 Madacy 3:05
Country Ballads [Sony BMG] 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:03
Love Always: Live from Texas 2009 Country Stars 4:05
Dolly [RCA/Legacy] 2009 Legacy / RCA / RCA/Legacy 3:06
Live from London 2009 Universal Music 3:05
Triple Feature: Women of Country 2009
Various Artists
Sony BMG / Sony CMG 3:10
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Commercial Canada 3:09
Essential 3.0 2010 Legacy / RCA / Sony Legacy 3:04
The Country Box [Universal] 2010
Various Artists
Universal 3:05
Legends: Super Hits/Heartbreaker 2010 Allegro Corporation / American Legends 3:10
Triple Feature: Coat of Many Colors/My Tennessee Mountain Home/Jolene 2010 Sony Records International 3:06
Country's Got Heart [Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:06
Country's Greatest Gospel Songs of the Century: Platinum Edition 2012
Various Artists
New Haven 3:05
An Evening with Dolly Live 2012 Cracker Barrel
World's Best Mum 2013 2013
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:04
Legends of Country 2013
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:05
The Real... 2013 Sony Music 3:05
The Box Set Series 2014 Legacy / RCA 3:05
Just for You 2014
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:03
Country Girl in the Big Apple: Live at the Bottom Line, New York City 1977 2015 Golden Rain 3:39
Country 2016 BMG / Sony Music 3:03
Smoky Mountain Memories 2016 Laser Media / On Stage 7:44
No Image 2016 Sony Music
Country Legends [Somerset Group]
Various Artists
Somerset Group 3:05
Country Legends [Sony 2013]
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:05
In London RCA
Legends Of Country: Country Sunshine
Various Artists
Life / Time 3:05
Live at the Bottom Line Hotspur 3:39
blue highlight denotes editor's pick