Will Jennings wrote the lyrics. Jennings is a prolific lyricist who worked with Steve Winwood on many of his hits and also wrote songs for Rodney Crowell, Barry Manilow, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Roy Orbison and many others. In a Songfacts interview with Jennings
, he told us the inspiration behind the lyrics to this song: "James Horner, who I had worked with on other films, asked me to come to his house and consider writing something for Titanic
. James told me the story of the script and then played me the theme he had written for the film. The character Rose, looking back over the all those years, caught my imagination and I connected her with a 100-plus-year-old woman, still working, still vital, Beatrice Wood, who I had met a few years before in Ojai, California, an hour or so north of where I lived in Westlake Village. Wood had been an artist in New York before World War I and had lived and worked in France, and wound up in California and finally in Ojai, working as a fine arts potter.
My wife and I happened to be in Ojai when the premiere of a film called Mama of Dada
, a documentary about Wood's life, was shown and we went to see it and Ms. Wood herself showed up, very much alive and lively, 101-plus, and talked about the film before it was shown and then received all of the people at the premiere at a hotel across the street from the theatre where the film was shown. When she shook my hand I had such a feeling of vitality and life force - it was like nothing in my life before or since.
When James told me the script, I focused on Rose and thought of Beatrice Wood, who was old enough to have been Rose, and I still had the feeling I had of the life force I felt when I touched Beatrice Wood's hand, and it was from this feeling that I wrote the lyric for 'My Heart Will Go On.' When James and I were working on the film, the rumor was that Jim Cameron had gone crazy in Mexico spending too much money and the film would be a big flop. The rumor was wrong. The film was a huge hit. The song was a huge hit. I am still getting over it. Totally unexpected."