Every Song Tells a Story

Over the course of her career, country music icon Dolly Parton has written some 3,000 songs. With over 60 years’ experience as a lyricist and singer, she’s told a lot of stories with her music.

Dolly started writing songs when she was just a kid. She received her first guitar as a gift at the tender age of eight. Her first song, “Little Tiny Tasseltop,” was about her handmade dolls. It was never recorded, but Dolly’s mother wrote down the lyrics for safekeeping.

Some of Dolly’s biggest hits draw upon her childhood experience, when her large family struggled on their small farm. “Coat of Many Colors” is about a garment that Dolly’s mother made her from rags. While Dolly loved the coat, she was teased mercilessly at school. The lyrics are about bullying, love, and acceptance.

While Dolly now describes herself as apolitical, many of the song lyrics from her early career talked about women’s roles, civil rights, war, and death. Our Instaread on Dolly Parton, Songteller goes behind the music to share more of the stories that shaped the famous musician.

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