Dolly Parton’s classic “Coat of Many Colors” is so vividly written, the humbling narrative always unfolds like a movie in my mind. Those mean kids! But that coat is more than just an imaginative way to tell a story. You can see the actual article when you visit Dollywood, the country star’s theme park near her hometown of Sevierville, Tenn.
Parton has compiled so many facets of her life into the Chasing Rainbows museum at Dollywood, even a casual fan will leave feeling like they know her better. The first few hallways feature photographs with country singers and movie stars. Then you get into her “attic,” where you can survey neat piles of memorabilia like posters, portraits and a whole lot of assorted stuff.
After that, you enter an area where she shows a few things from her rural roots. (In another part of the theme park, there’s a replica of her original Tennessee mountain home, which is tiny, but you can’t really explore it like you can at the museum.) She shares stories about her church roots and how her father paid the doctor that delivered her with a sack of cornmeal.
Next to the little patchwork jacket, which I think most parents and kids would consider cute now, is a set of small papers with Parton’s scrawled lyrics to the song. I find it interesting that Parton was a pretty harsh editor of her own work. The scratched-out words almost outnumber her remaining lyrics. It’s also incredible that she could tell her life story in just a few lines.
Take a close look at the papers and you’ll see that she is one of those songwriters who gets busy when inspiration strikes, grabbing whatever kind of paper is handy. It’s true and somehow fitting — the original lyrics for “Coat of Many Colors” were written on a dry-cleaning receipt.
If you like glamorous gowns, the bottom floor will be heaven. As for me, that coat is my favorite piece of “wardrobe” in the whole place.