Dolly Parton has many LGBTQ + fans and has long been considered an enduring queer icon. Parton has spoken out in favor of LGBTQ + rights on several occasions and has also spoken out in favor of marriage equality. She also called on Christians to judge homosexuals, saying, “If you are homosexual, you are homosexual. If you are straight, you are straight. And you should be allowed to be who you are and who you are.
Parton’s outspoken support for the LGBTQ + community is first seen in 1991 on the album Eagle When She Flies, which features the song Family, with its lyrics: “Some are preachers, some are gay, of others are drug addicts, drunkards and wanderers. But not one is refused when it is family.
But it’s the title track from his album Coat of Many Colors, released 50 years ago in September, that resonates with so many LGBTQ + fans. The song describes an episode from Parton’s childhood who grew up in rural poverty where his mother sews a coat for him with different colored rags. For young Parton, this gives her a sense of pride in herself and helps her stand out and receive the attention of her parents (which with 12 siblings was no small feat). But while going to school, the other children see only the rags and laugh at her.
From shame to pride
Let us feel proud to wear the coat to shame in the hands of other schoolchildren. She tries to solve this problem by reaffirming a feeling of pride: “You are only poor if you choose to be. Far from blaming those who have no money for their misfortune, this line aims to redirect the shame.
The song’s shame rework is what allows it to travel and resonate with so many different listeners. In the recent BBC biopic, Dolly Parton: Here I Am (later released on Netflix), Parton describes the song as his “philosophy,” saying, “It’s good to be different. You know, it’s good not to be like everyone else. In fact, it’s not just OK, it’s wonderful that you are who you are.
This transformation from shame to pride has long been a strategy used throughout LGBTQ + history and politics. And wearing the coat of many colors has striking visual similarities to the LGBTQ + pride flag – an image that has become more and more resonant as Parton’s LGBTQ + advocacy has become more pronounced.
50 years later
Coat of Many Colors has now reached the age of 50, but it is still as relevant today as it was when it was released in October 1971. Nominated for Album of the Year at the 1972 Country Music Association Awards, it Also appeared at number 257 on The 2020 Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The album was released while Parton was still strongly linked to her musical partner Porter Wagoner. And Coat of Many Colors has shown to surpass it quickly. The album was a defining moment for Parton to assert his agency and independent identity as an artist.
Coat of Many Colors continues to be one of Parton’s most popular songs, as evidenced by the enthusiastic response it elicits at concerts.
The song also reaches audiences around the world – Parton has a lot of fans in Nigeria and Kenya – because of its history of family, struggle and acceptance. But as wonderful and historically significant as this song is, the Coat of Many Colors album has more than one song to note.
Parton wrote seven of the ten songs on the album. All showcase the refinement and evolution of Parton’s craft from the comical portrayals of sexuality in Traveling Man, where a young girl falls in love with her traveling man only to be abandoned for her mother, to pastoral imagery. reminiscent of the mountain landscape where she grew up in Early Morning Breeze and My Blue Tears.
A key song that captures the essence of Parton’s philosophy is Here I Am, which Parton recently re-recorded with Sia for the Netflix film Dumplin ‘. Country song with gospel accents, Parton’s voice and lyrics allow his message to travel widely. Parton recognizes the difficulty of people’s situations so that his message of belief is not crippling.
Through Parton’s storytelling, other struggling people from all walks of life can relate to the emotional content of the song and hear the resounding message of hope.
Indeed, Parton’s cross-appeal, from country music fans to pop audiences, and his strong songwriting core set a precedent that today’s artists who straddle multiple genres still rely on. artists like Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves and more recently Lil Nas X.
Parton herself has indicated that she would like to be remembered primarily as a songwriter. Not to mention the significant impact Parton has had on the LGBTQ + community through her personality and media image, but an understanding of Dolly is much more enriched by a deeper understanding of her songwriting.
James Barker, PhD student in music, University of Newcastle
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.