On this date in 1974, Dolly Parton released her iconic ballad, “I Will Always Love You.” She included it on her Jolene album that same year, and of course, famously wrote it on the same day in 1973 that she wrote the title track.
At the time, Dolly was leaving the Porter Wagoner Show, where she got her start in the music business…and Porter was not happy about it. He even sued Dolly over her departure, and they didn’t talk for many years after the whole fiasco, but eventually did become friends again – and in fact became so close that Dolly was with Porter and his family when he passed away in 2007.
But at the time, Dolly wrote “I Will Always Love You” to try to explain her feelings about leaving his show to Porter. She explained how the song came about in a 2015 interview with The Tennessean:
“How am I gonna make him understand how much I appreciate everything, but that I have to go? So I went home and I thought, ‘Well, what do you do best? You write songs.’ So I sat down and I wrote this song…
I took it back to the office the next day. I said, “Porter, sit down. I’ve written something I think you need to hear.” I started singing “I Will Always Love You,” and he started crying. When I finished, he said, “Well, hell! If you feel that strong about it, just go on — providing I get to produce that record because that’s the best song you ever wrote.”
The song was also used in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which Dolly starred in alongside Burt Reynolds in 1982.
Of course, it was made incredibly popular by the late, great Whitney Houston when she recorded a rendition of it for the 1992 film The Bodyguard. Her single spent 14 weeks at the number one spot of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, setting a new record at the time, ultimately becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time and the best-selling single by a woman.
Dolly had originally offered the song to Patti LaBelle, but they used it for The Bodyguard before she could officially accept the offer. Patti agreed that it was Whitney’s song, and she was glad Whitney was the one who got to record it.
I mean, it’s tough to imagine anyone else’s vocals, aside from Dolly’s and Whitney’s, on that song.
Unfortunately, we never got to hear a duet by the two powerhouses, but I can only imagine how absolutely incredible that would’ve been. They’re two of the most iconic female musicians ever, and Dolly still regrets that they never got to sing it together:
“I was never asked to perform that with Whitney. I wish that could’ve happened, I would have loved that, but I don’t think I could’ve come up to snuff with her, though. She’d have out-sung me on that one, for sure.”
Dolly also talked about the first time she ever heard Whitney’s version on The Oprah Conversation a while back, and she said she almost wrecked her car (again) when it came on the radio the first time:
“I was shot so full of adrenaline and energy, I had to pull off because I was afraid that I would wreck, so I pulled over quick as I could to listen to that whole song.
I could not believe how she did that. I mean, how beautiful it was that my little song had turned into that, so that was a major, major thing.”
Whitney’s version has amassed in astronomical one billion views plus on YouTube, and it still gives me chills every time I listen to it:
And make sure you check out Dolly singin’ it back in 1974.
Their two versions are so different, but I love both and I can’t think of two more talented people who could make one song such a classic in each of their respective catalogs… it’s pretty damn incredible: