Music

A Father's Day Gem by Dolly Parton: "Daddy's Working Boots"

Father's Day means something different to everyone. And for country music legend Dolly Parton, no doubt, the holiday includes reflecting on her youth in Pittman Center, Tennessee. Parton was born there in 1946 and raised on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in a one-room cabin. Her 1973 album My Tennessee Mountain Home provides a colorful picture of that period, which was at once difficult and filled with love. Off that album, the track "Daddy's Working Boots" offers a deep look at one particularly special figure: Parton's father, Robert Lee, who is remembered for his hard-working attitude.

'My Tennessee Mountain Home'

My Tennessee Mountain Home, released in 1973, was Parton's eleventh solo album. And though it's not one of her most famous works, the project is key to understanding the songwriter's personal history. My Tennessee Mountain Home was something of an autobiography for the young artist, each track inspired by her unique childhood. It's no secret that Parton grew up poor -- "dirt poor" -- as one of twelve children. Her father worked as a sharecropper while her mother struggled with poor health. Without sugarcoating the economic hardship, through song, Parton paints her life back home as complex and meaningful. Her famous 1969 single, "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)" was re-recorded on My Tennessee Mountain Home and encapsulates the nuanced message. Listen above. And note the photo of Parton's childhood home on the album cover!

Read More: Dolly Parton Shares Her Life Story With 'In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)'

Other songs on My Tennessee Mountain Home share similar themes, like "The Wrong Direction Home," and "The Better Part of Life." Then there are more focused odes. "Dr. Robert F. Thomas" honors the local physician who served the rural community, and even delivered Parton and her siblings. "I Remember" identifies both of Parton's parents as major influences: "Oh I Remember many things that often I recall / But I remember momma and daddy most of all." "Daddy's Working Boots," however, includes even more detail and functions a rich character study of Parton's enigmatic father.

Robert Lee Parton

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Robert Lee Parton was born in 1921 and raised in a family poor sharecropping family. Like many children in that area at the time, Robert quit school as a child to help farm and feed the family. As such, he never learned to read or write. And throughout his life, illiteracy remained his greatest shame. His daughter Dolly, who has spoken at length about his intellectual ability often thought: "God, if he'd had an education, I wonder what all he might've been?"

That question is what inspired Parton to start the Imagination Library: a worldwide charity that gifts new books to children up to age five. Having witnessed her father feeling "crippled with the fact that he couldn't read and write," Dolly recognized the necessity of early access to literature. And while reading is certainly a foundational skill, Robert forged a happy home for the Parton family in spite of his illiteracy. Through hard manual labor, Robert provided for his wife Avie Lee Caroline and twelve children. And it's that selflessness that's explored in the song "Daddy's Working Boots."

Taking a similar approach to the Parton favorite "Coat of Many Colors," "Daddy's Working Boots" hones in on a single object -- in this case her father's shoes -- as a portal into his tireless, tryin' soul. Robert Lee Parton passed in 2003 at the age of 79, but he is remembered by Dolly Parton fans everywhere thanks to her illuminating lyrics. Check them out below.

"Daddy's Working Boots"

My dear hard workin' daddy works his life away for us
That's the way that daddy shows to us his love
And daddy's two hard-working hands
They're callous and they're sore
And daddy's workin' boots have walked a million miles or more

As long as I remember, I remember Daddy workin'
Workin' on the job or either on the farm
Trying to provide for the family that he loves
And daddy's workin' boots have taken many steps for us

Daddy's workin' boots have served as his foundation
Though just like him, they're tired and worn
For years they've helped him stand
Daddy's working boots have filled their obligation
They've walked that rocky road with a mighty, mighty man

Dear lord above, I know up there my daddy's got a mansion
And a great reward that's long been overdue
And when it comes my daddy's time to be with you in heaven
Won't ya let him walk your golden streets
In a pair of brand new golden boots?

Daddy's workin' boots have served as his foundation
Though just like him, they're tired and worn
For years they've helped him stand
Daddy's working boots have filled their obligation
They've walked that rocky road with a mighty, mighty man
Daddy's workin' boots

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A Father's Day Gem by Dolly Parton: "Daddy's Working Boots"