“Coat of Many Colors” is a song written and recorded by American country music singer Dolly Parton, which has been described on a number of occasions as her favorite song she has written. It was released in October 1971 as the second single and title track from the album Coat of Many Colors. She composed the song in 1969, while traveling with Porter Wagoner on a tour bus. (She explained in her 1994 memoir, My Life and Other Unfinished Business, because she could find no paper, as the song came to her, she wrote it on the back of a dry cleaning receipt from one of Wagoner’s suits; when the song became a hit, Wagoner had the receipt framed.) She recorded the song in April 1971, making it the title song for her Coat of Many Colors album. The song reached #4 on the U.S. country singles charts.
The song tells of how Parton’s mother stitched together a coat for her daughter out of rags given to the family. As she sewed, she told her child the biblical story of Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors. The excited child, “with patches on my britches and holes in both my shoes”, rushed to school, “just to find the others laughing and making fun of me” for wearing a coat made of rags.
And oh I couldn’t understand it, for I felt I was rich
And I told them 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
The song concludes with Parton singing the moral of her story:
But they didn’t understand it, and I tried to make them see
One is only poor, only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money, but I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors my momma made for me