Dolly Parton wrote this and did the original version in 1974, which went to #1 on the Country chart that year. She recorded another version for the 1982 movie The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, which also hit #1 on the Country chart. She wrote the song after the breakup of the musical partnership she had with country singer Porter Wagoner. They were never romantically involved.
The lyrics are sad in the sense that the singer will always love the person she is singing to, yet she knows they are not right for each other and must let him go. It is often misinterpreted as a song about people who will be together forever, and even gets played at some weddings.
This was featured in the movie The Bodyguard, which Houston starred in with Kevin Costner. Houston played a famous singer and Costner her bodyguard. Of course, they fall in love. Costner picked it for the movie.
Whitney originally intended to cover Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" as the lead single from The Bodyguard. However, after she found out the song had been used just one year earlier in the 1991 film Fried Green Tomatoes, Costner suggested she record Dolly Parton's country hit instead. Houston loved the choice but Clive Davis, the Arista Records boss who acted as mentor for the singer throughout her career, was puzzled by the selection. Costner, who also produced the film, knew it would be perfect for the picture and stuck to his guns. "I said, 'This is a very important song in this movie,'" he recalled to CMT. "I didn't care if it was ever on the radio. I didn't care. I said, 'We're also going to do this a cappella at the beginning. I need it to be a cappella because it shows a measure of how much she digs this guy - that she sings without music.'"
Parton's original version was a country ballad. Houston's recording had more lavish production and became a pop, soul, and adult contemporary hit. The tremendous crossover appeal meant that radio stations of many different formats played the song, giving it a huge audience. It ended up being a groundbreaker, but it was a big risk, as there wasn't much crossover between the country and R&B audiences. "Truth be told, the musical side of her camp was very unsure about this little country song," recalled Kevin Costner.
While she was crushing the convention that a soul singer shouldn't do country, Houston also proved that her fans would accept her in an on-screen interracial romance, which she had with Costner in the movie. In the film, the race issue wasn't mentioned.
This stayed at #1 US for 14 weeks, a record at the time. In 1995, this record was broken by "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, which held the top spot for 16 weeks. "I Will Always Love You" does hold the record for the most weeks at #1 for a song that first appeared on a soundtrack.
For a time, this was second only to "We Are The World" as the biggest-selling single ever. It was bumped to #3 n 1997, when Elton John's new version of "Candle In The Wind" became the biggest.
Houston performed this at the Grammys in 1993. It won for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The song also won the 1992 Soul Train Music Award for R&B Song of the Year.
It did not, however, win an Oscar, since it was not eligible for the Best Original Song award. That award can only go to songs that are written specifically for a film.
According to Kevin Costner, he really wanted Whitney Houston to star in The Bodyguard with him, so much so that he postponed shooting for a year until she was available. Costner was one of the few people in Hollywood who could convince a movie studio to do this; he had lots of sway after his movie Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1991.
The Bodyguard is the best-selling soundtrack of all time.
In 2002, while the US was preparing to go to war with Iraq, Saddam Hussein ran TV and radio ads using this song as he prepared to be re-elected. Houston's record label filed a complaint with the Iraqi mission to the United Nations.
Elvis Presley wanted to record this song but demanded half the publishing rights. Dolly Parton refused and was vindicated when years later Whitney Houston's version earned her $6 million. Parton commented to Observer Music Monthly April 2008: "'I think stories like that are the reason why younger female artists say I've influenced them."
In an interview with UK music magazine Q, Dolly Parton said she "was blown away" by Whitney's version. She said: "The way she took that simple song of mine and made it such a mighty thing, it almost became her song. Some writers say, 'Ooh, I hate the way they've done that to my song or that version wasn't what I had in mind.' I just think it's wonderful that people can take a song and do it so many different ways."
David Foster produced this song. When the decision was made to record it for the movie, Foster went to a record store and bought the Linda Ronstadt version so Whitney could learn the song. When he called Dolly Parton to let her know they were using her song, Dolly told him something very important: the Ronstadt version leaves out the last verse ("I wish you joy and happiness..."), which changes the tone of the song. Parton gave him the lyrics and Whitney recorded the full version. Foster had to tell the film's director, Mick Jackson, that he needed an extra 40 seconds of screen time, as it had been placed in the film minus the last verse.
Foster, who has produced Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Michael Bublé, called it "The love song of the century."
The song returned to the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart following Houston's death. Its comeback was fueled by an enormous resurgence in digital sales in the week after her passing of 195,000, an increase of 6723%, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The song was performed by Amber Riley on the "Heart" episode of Glee. The tape of the show was delivered to the Fox network the day before the untimely death of Whitney and broadcast four days after her passing. Riley's character Mercedes sings the ballad as part of a plot line revolving around her indecision over two romantic interests.
When this reached #3 in the Hot 100 in 2011, it became the fifth song to become a top 10 hit in two different chart runs. So, what were the other four? They were:
"The Twist" by Chubby Checker - #1 in 1960 and #1 in 1962.
"Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Cryptkickers - #1 in 1962 and #10 in 1973.
"Stand By Me" by Ben E. King - #4 in 1961 and #9 in 1986.
After Houston died on February 11, 2012, "I Will Always Love You" was used in many tributes to the singer, as it was her best-known song. The night after Houston's death, Jennifer Hudson sang a moving rendition in honor of Houston at the Grammy Awards ceremony.
Dolly Parton was driving the first time she heard Houston's rendition of her song. "I turned the radio on, and all of a sudden I heard that a cappella part," she said at a 2017 press conference. "I knew it was something familiar. And then by the time it dawned on me what I was hearing, when Whitney went into the chorus, I had to stop the car because I almost wrecked it. I thought my heart was gonna just bust right out of my body."
Two years after this song stormed the charts, producer David Foster took another another #1 Country hit to the top of the Hot 100 with "I Swear." That song was a country chart-topper for John Michael Montgomery in 1994; Foster produced a version by the vocal group All-4-One that stayed at #1 on the Hot 100 for 11 weeks later that same year.
Many listeners don't know this is a cover song, and that's OK with Dolly Parton. She told the Today show: "A lot of people say that's Whitney's song, and I always say, 'That's fine, she can have the credit. I just want my cash.'"
Martin from BulgariaI'm sorry but I was to Dolly Parton's concert and I don't like her voice at all, she is one of the worst performers I've ever seen! She made my ears blind! Whitney had feminine, rich, powerful and natural voice that Dolly only could dream for!
Kimberly from Landing, NjGod bless her soul. But most of all bless bobbi k. Brown for she should not have to go thru the pain of life that will continue. God bless her, no one deserve the grow at 18 to put thru that much pain.
God bless her again. And god bless whitney. For she has departed. Souls come back around in time. As dose easter, spring, and the spirit of good will to learn please everyone cont to support bobbi k. Brown. She lost her mother , and just from my own experience is one on the hardest places to be.
God bless her n the best of her family.
Blackcat from Eden Prairie, MnNo disrespect to WH at all. Her voice was marvelous. But I will always prefer DP's version of this song. It is a bittersweet, tender, fragile song. It is not meant to be belted out. Dolly's voice and her treatment of the song is brilliant.
Camille from Toronto, OhI like both Dolly and Whitney's versions of this song. It is an incredibly well-written song. As often is the case for such a major hit as this, it expresses sentiments that a majority of people have experienced: The time has come for us to go our separate ways, but I want only the best for you and you will always have my love. Both women's versions bring heartfelt emotion to the song in a different way. I like that the song was resurrected by Whitney's version. RIP Whitney. 2/12/12
Gary from Houston, TxThis is going to take some time to pass... Like a death in the family May she really Rest in Peace
Justin from Greenwood, Insuch a great song always get cold chills when i listen to it
Phillipo from Montrea, QcI agree that this is the best singing on a pop record that I've ever heard.
Gennette from Seattle, WaI love Dolly Partons version, its beautiful and sweet sounding. But Whitney's vocal performance in her version is incomparable. So amazing:)
Karen from Manchester, NhI'm sorry, but I don't like WH's version; it sounds more threatening than bittersweet..."I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU!!!!!" No, Dolly's original version is simply better...period.
Guy from Woodinville, WaIMHO, the greatest vocal recording ever made. Not even Barbra can match this.
Stacy from Bergenfield, NjI heard Whitney sing this song in person at a concert in Long Island, NY. She blew me away. Still, Fan for life. She's still a Diva, with a capital "D"
Katie from Orange County, Caby far the best song of all time bar none
Susan from Westchestertonfieldville, Vafor as much as they played it on the radio, it was still way better than that aweful Titanic celine Dion song
Robert from San Francisco, CaIt is said jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum did the sax solo.
Keriah from Naples, FlThis is the most beautiful and romanic song of all time. Whitney has the most beautiful voice even better than Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. I cant wait for her to have a big comeback, this is my most favorite ballad, she certainly has a gift and a huge power voice.
Paul from Savannah, GaShe was originally supposed to sing "What becomes of the Brokenhearted" for the The Bodyguard instead of this song, but at the last minute asked her to sing this song.
Nathaniel from London, EnglandThere were actually two versions of this song that whitney done, the first vesion is found at the end of the movie "The Bodyguard" the other featured on the soundtrack. Both of which were great vocals.
Caitlin from Upper Township, Njsuch a sad song. but whitney is a really good singer
John-martin from Silver Creek, MsLetting go of someone who is not good to you or for you and who has made great effort to hurt you is never easy to do. After the hurt and anger and once you put God back in your life, only then can you say to that person (and actually mean it) that I will always love you and truly wish you joy and peace. This song literally speaks volumns and is one for the ages and all occasions.
Joshua from Leavenworth, KsSorry Stephen, this song was first sang in 1972 (a hit then, for the 1st time) as a "tribute" to Porter Wagoner, when Dolly left his show. Dolly's husband's name is Carl Dean. Making her intials, DRD, or in some circles, she is DD, for her bra size. =) The song is wonderfully performed by Houston, as a powerhosue torch song, but Dolly's "Whorehouse" version is my favorite. it give the subtle loving touch the songs needs. There is no tear-catch in Whitney's voice, Dolly allows that to come through in her versions (except the one with Vince Gill in the 90's)... she lived this song. She IS this song!
Ash from Charleston, WvI just hope I never have the occasion to hear this song in the proximity of a bridge, because I will surely hurl myself off of it.
Mark from Boston, MaThis song has appeared in at least three movies: In addition to "The Bodyguard", the original Dolly Parton version was featured in Scorcese's "Alice Doesn't Love Here Anymore" from 1974 (played in the background while Ellen Burnstyn and Harvey Kitel talked in a bar), and it later was featured in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" in 1982.
Andy from Columbus, OhThank you, Angie!!! People alwasy say that they end up together in the movie, as well. Maybe people just hear the "love you" and assume all is well. I guess they hear what they want.
Fiona from Napier, New ZealandToo true, Angie! I think this song belongs in the "commonly misinterpreted songs" category, alongside fellow inappropriate wedding song "Every Breath You Take".
Godfrey from Tko, Hong KongI prefer the Urban Pop style rather than the country ballad style. Whitney presented this song with full energy and gave an unforgettable impression for all pop-song lovers in the world.
Angie from Columbus, OhIt seems really silly to me that so many people use this song at their weddings when it is actually a song about breaking up! Does no-one listen to lyrics anymore?
Stephen from Cape Town, South AfricaThis song (written and performed by Dolly parton) was first used as the love theme in the movie "The best little Whorehouse in Texas", starring Dolly Parton. Dolly has only been married once - to Carl with a strange surname, and they are still married.