With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I wanted to take a look at the story behind this song, which was inspired by a coat her mom made her when she was growing up dirt poor in the hills of East Tennessee, just like she says in the song.
Her mom sewed the coat together with rags people gave Dolly’s family, and as she worked, her mother told her children the story of Joseph in the Bible, as he had his own Coat of Many Colors which was given to him by his father Jacob and a very significant part of his story.
The coat and meaning behind it taught Dolly to be proud of and thankful for what she had, even if it meant nothing to anyone else:
“And oh, I couldn’t understand it For I felt I was rich And I told ’em of the love My momma sewed in every stitch And I told ’em all the story Momma told me while she sewed And how my coat of many colors Was worth more than all their clothes”
A solo write by Dolly, “Coat of Many Colors” was released in September 1971 as the second single and title track to her Coat of Many Colors album. It peaked at #4 on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart later that year.
She actually got the idea and initially penned the track in 1969 while traveling with Porter Wagoner on a tour bus, but had to write it on the back of a dry cleaning receipt from one of his suits because she had no paper on the bus.