Most of us associate this song with Whitney Houston, which is only natural: Her version is one of only a handful of singles that have sold more than 10 million copies. But the songwriter did okay with her original, too. Dolly Parton (Great American Things, June 3, 2010) wrote and released this single as a follow up to Jolene, and it reached number one on the Country Music charts. Parton had been discovered and featured by singer Porter Waggoner, but after seven years as his protegé, she became more popular than her boss. The only answer was to go on her own, and she wrote this song in honor of their relationship.
In 1982, Parton re-recorded “I Will Always Love You” for the soundtrack of the movie version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and it again topped the charts. A decade later, Whitney Houston did her own interpretation of the song for another movie, The Bodyguard. You could say it was a modest hit…if being number one for 14 consecutive weeks and landing as the number one song for the year 1993 is your idea of modesty.
Houston’s recording was named “Record of the Year” and “Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female” at the Grammy Awards. And it is number one on the list of 100 Greatest Love Songs as chosen by both VH1 and CMT. But don’t feel bad for Dolly that she had the less-successful version – the story is that Whitney’s recording brought Dolly $6 million in royalties and publishing fees.
Compare the two versions for yourself: