Dolly Parton penned her share of hit songs. From ‘Jolene’ to ‘Coat of Many Colors’ , Parton’s tunes resonated with audiences of all ages and walks of life. But, there was one song that touched far more people than Dolly would have ever imagined.
‘I Will Always Love You’ was written as a goodbye letter to Porter Wagoner. Dolly had been a part of Wagoner’s show for five years and was ready to go out on her own. However, she had a tough time getting through to Wagoner that it was time for her to leave.
“I went home and I thought, 'Well, what do you do best? You write songs.' So I sat down and I wrote this song,” Dolly said.
In a conversation with Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters Association International, Parton recalled writing the song, the first and last times she sang it to Porter Wagoner, and her reaction when she first heard Houston's version.
“The first time that I heard Whitney's version of (the song), I just about wrecked my car,” Parton confessed. “I was heading home, and all of a sudden, I had the radio on, and I just heard the a cappella part: 'If I should stay...' It kind of got my attention, but it hadn't registered yet. And I thought, 'What?' All of a sudden, she went into the chorus, and I thought, 'Oh my god! This is 'I Will Always Love You!''”
Parton went on to say that she hadn’t even been told that Houston had recorded it. “I'll never, ever, ever forget that. My heart almost just popped. It was such an overwhelming feeling to hear it done so great, with such a great and huge production, and with her voice. That was amazing.”
‘I Will Always Love You’ became one of the best-selling singles of all time after Whitney Houston brought it to life for the third time for the 1992 movie The Bodyguard. The song had previously topped the charts in both 1974 and 1982 making Dolly Parton the first artist to reach number one twice with the same song.
Check out Dolly Parton’s full interview with Bart Herbison then hear her sing ‘I Will Always Love You’ in 1974 in the videos below.
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