This was written for the movie Titanic. James Horner came up with the music for the song and scored the film. Horner, who died in a 2015 plane crash at age 61, was a very popular composer of orchestral music who wrote scores for many movies, including Braveheart, Apollo 13 and Aliens.
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."
When Jennings writes song for movies, he often looks at a script or sees a rough cut of the film. This wasn't the case with this song, as he drew inspiration from Horner's narrative. Says Jennngs, "I wrote everything from the point of view of a person of a great age looking back so many years. It was the love story that made the film, of course. It was magnificently done with special effects, the actors were good. But the love story was what it was."
According to Jennings, Celine Dion was the first choice to sing this. He and Horner worked together on the 1991 movie Feival Goes West and wrote the song "Dreams To Dream" for the film. Dion demoed the song, but it went to Linda Ronstadt, who was a bigger star. By the time Horner and Jennings wrote "My Heart Will Go On," Dion was a huge star, with two #1 hits in America: "The Power Of Love" and "Because You Loved Me." When Horner played it for her, she agreed to sing it... reluctantly.
Her husband/manager Rene Angélil suggested she record a demo, which gave Horner the in. "I wanted to choke my husband," Dion told Billboard. "Because I didn't want to do it!"
When she recorded the demo, Horner told her about the movie and the significance of the song, but Dion just wanted to get it over with ("My girly days are starting to happen"). She nailed the demo in one take, which ended up being the version used in the film.
The song first appeared on the Titanic soundtrack, released November 7, 1997, which sold at least 15 million copies worldwide even though the rest of the album is comprised of James Horner's instrumental pieces written for the film. This was a huge boon for Sony Records, which released the soundtrack; when they made the deal, they paid $800,000 for the rights, as it was long before the song was written.
A week after the soundtrack was released, the song appeared on Dion's solo album Let's Talk About Love, which went to #1 in most territories and sold somewhere around 30 million copies worldwide. The RIAA certified both the soundtrack and Dion's album as Diamond, for sales of over 10 million in the United States.
The song's unexpected and enduring success echoes that of the film, which went way over budget and was delayed for months. The gaudy production seemed doomed to a similar fate as the title vessel, but it was a triumph, taking in a record 1.8 billion worldwide a the box office in its initial run and winning 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Song for "My Heart Will Go On."
The version used in the film is far more spartan than the one used on the albums and released as a single. Walter Afanasieff was brought in to produce the track and do the arrangements, turning the song into the majestic orchestral piece that became so successful.
The film was released on December 19, 1997, by which time the soundtrack had been out for six weeks, and Dion's album for five. The film was a blockbuster beast, the #1 film in America from its debut until April. The song was released as a single on December 8 and picked up steam in January, once Christmas was over the the film was established as a phenomenon. It reached #1 in America the last week of February.
For the music video, director Billie Woodruff shot footage of Dion in a Los Angeles studio that was intercut with footage from the film.
Worldwide, this was the biggest selling single of 1998. In the UK it sold 1,312,551 copies, making Celine Dion the only woman with two million-selling singles in the UK. (The other was 1994's "Think Twice.")
This was named the best film song of all time in a 2010 survey decided by listeners of the UK radio station Magic. Runner-up in the poll was Take That's "Rule The World" and in third place came Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."
This won the 1998 Grammy Awards for Record Of The Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Song Of The Year and Best Song for a Motion Picture.
In 2017, Celine Dion returned to the Grammy stage to present the award for Song of the Year, which she did in tribute to her husband, René Angélil, who died the previous year. "I will never forget sitting with my husband, René, when 'My Heart Will Go On' won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year 18 years ago," she said. The winner: "Hello" by Adele.
While this song was dominating the charts in 1998, South Park did a send-up called "Throbbing Star," where a female character sing the tune with the lyrics, "There you are, like a throbbing star. I want you to make love to me."
The version used on the soundtrack runs 5:11; the radio edit goes 4:36.
Dion performed this song at the Billboard Music Awards in 2017 in honor of its 20th anniversary.
Raymond from Little Rock, ArIn the Vid on you tube titled "Céline Dion - My Heart Will Go On " @ 3:34 and 4:59 she looks like she's "throwing 3 sixes" she also looks like she is Completely Overwhelmed/Overcome. Very Powerful Song.
Susie from Burnaby, BcOriginally several Titanic songs were written in french and included with the script. A decision was made however to keep these on a separate Celine Dion album and use only the english song and rest of the score. The story was based off of a newspaper article marking the day in history and how it affected the locals and those abroad with what had happened. Included was this one remark about a woman who fell in love at sea and lost him in the disaster. What isn't main stream knowledge was there was a heart shaped pendant that really existed. I was on a cruise with a bunch of people and got offered tickets by a studio which I had done some writing for under a wide range of pen names so I could maintain some privacy(you have NDA's and rep agreements with studios, actors, etc). Anyways on this cruise a prince of one of the arab countries gave someone a special piece of jewelry. It was a ruby heart which his grandpa had made for him(at the time due to its size it was a named gem). There was a problem family on this trip mostly due to the antics of their family member the actor (Jason) who was later known as Jonathan Brandis(Robbie Benson another one of their family was sort of behaving except for all the women). Jason stole the necklace and tossed it overboard. This didn't only made a few people mad. But also got his family in trouble for not dealing with his brat stage very well. I wasn't the only writer on this cruise. My cousins were too busy to go on it at the time.(Steven Spielberg, Leslie Anderson - voice acting/production, Lari, & Terri) So I went with some other family on the trip.
Karen from Manchester, NhI am #6 of 7 children, with 4 brothers and 2 sisters. At my parents' 50th anniversary party, when this song played, I danced with my father. It was the first time I had ever danced with my father (I didn't have a traditional wedding, so I had no "daddy/daughter" dance) and, as we danced, I sang along with this. It was also the first time I had ever sang to my father. Needless to say, the song holds a special place in my heart because of all that.
Bill from Pensacola, FlI can't believe the most amazing fact about this song is not here, This song almost didn't happen. according to IMDB trivia:
James Cameron was adamant about not including any song in the movie, even over the closing credits. No singing. But composer James Horner secretly arranged with lyricist Will Jennings to write it and singer Céline Dion to sing it, the tape was then presented to Cameron. We all know what happened next.
Megan from Stevenson, AlLove the key change at the end! It's absolutely beautiful!
Megan from Stevenson, AlThis song is sooo beautiful! Celine's voice is amazing! This song is touching and I always cry. The lyrics are beautiful!
Jeff from Austin, TxCeline Dion can't write songs. Come on.
Slik from Land Of Awesomeness, AustraliaOutstanding piece of music, an inspiration, a historic movement, captures the inbuilt musical senses. I'll put it on now and have a cry..
Ivana from Baltimore, MdI just adore this song!!! It's so beautiful and it just makes me cry because I can relate to it since I've seen the Titanic and I have a relationship as well. The song just seems to pertain to my relationship with my boyfriend with all the things love has gotten us through.It really is the song of our relationship and it's just so bittersweet!!!Also, Celine Dion sings it so beautifully!!!
Sukumaran from Singapore, SingaporeAn awesome song coupled with the memories of my late father and late godson. Time to move on. Thank you Will Jennings for the meaningful lyrics and Celine Dion for the fantastic performance.
Edwin from Vancouver, BcO.K. she can sing... but get the woman some better material!
Spencer from Palm Harbor , FlNew Found Glory did a cover of this song they ruined it
Bertrand from Paris, FranceThis was certainly one of the most over-played ballads of the year. However, if you listen once again, the song is beautiful, and Celine Dion is one of the most reliable voices in the business.
Elmer from Honolulu, Hibest song for celine dion
Lee from Blacksburg , VaThis song fills me with hope for longevity.
Nage from Boston, Mai think that this song represents romeo and juliet and how the love and the emotion's. And the words that they use
-tia boston, ma tech boston academy! class of 2010
Raymond from Sydney, AustraliaAussie rock band 'The Screaming Jets' did a cover of this song as a challenge for a radio breakfast show.
This cover version was extremely popular amongst Celine Dion and Screaming Jets fans alike.
Roo from Bobville, Ali meant wonderful voice celine dion rocks so does this song
Kimmy from Rochester, NyThis song is one of my favorites because the lyrics are amazing and her voice is so beautful! Titanic is my favorite movie, and this song just makes it even better!
Caitlin from Upper Township, NjMy ballet class danced to this song in our recital. I was almost crying on stagebecause the song is so sad. Nevertheless, it's heart touching and Celine has a beautiful voice.
Bianca from Windsor, Canadathis is an aswome song but it remineds me of my grandma but she passed away so now it makes me sad but it's sill really good Bianca,windsor ontario canada
Michelle from Darlington, EnglandThis song is good, but whenever i hear it i feel like crying. I probably start to feel like crying because i've watched the film titanic and i hate songs that's somehow related to death. (If that didin't make any sense don't blame me.) Hopefully you know what i mean.
Matija from Zagreb, CroatiaIt's an awesome song. Celine Dion has a beautiful voice. Great job - now is she'd only written it too... oh well