Interesting Facts Fans May Not Know About Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You'

Dolly Parton, who wrote the song, first learned about Houston's version after hearing it on the radio

Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton
Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage, Charley Gallay/AMA2009/Getty

We will always love Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."

Written by Dolly Parton and originally released as a chart-topping country hit by the legendary musician in 1974, the iconic ballad reached new heights once Houston recorded it for the soundtrack to the 1992 film The Bodyguard.

Houston's version of the track reached No. 1 in over a dozen countries upon its release and went on to win awards for record of the year and best pop vocal performance at the 1994 Grammys — before eventually becoming certified diamond by the RIAA for more then ten million units sold.

While fans may have the lyrics to "I Will Always Love You" down pat, its history is a little less well-known. So, before theaters are filled with audiences watching Naomi Ackie as Houston — who died at age 48 in 2012 — in the biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody once it's released on Dec. 23, here are some interesting facts about the beloved song.

Parton wrote the song about Porter Wagoner

Parton, 76, got her start on The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967. With dreams of a solo career but no hit songs (yet), Parton sang on Wagoner's show for seven years — until she signed an autograph for a girl named Jolene, and her first hit song was born. With her star on fire by 1974, Parton had to find a way to tell Wagoner that she was leaving his show and moving on to pursue her own solo career.

So, she wrote Wagoner a song. Its title? "I Will Always Love You."

"I thought 'Do what you do best, just write a song.' So, I wrote the song, took it back in the next day. And I said, 'Porter sit down, I got something I have to sing to you.' So I sang it. And he was sitting at his desk and he was crying," Parton recalled in a 2021 clip from filmmaker Ken Burns' Country Music. "He said, 'It's the best thing you ever wrote. OK, you can go, but only if I can produce that record.' And he did and the rest is history!"

Parton was in the car the first time she heard Houston sing the song

During a recent appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Parton explained how Kevin Costner called her to ask if he could use "I Will Always Love You" for the 1992 film The Bodyguard, which Houston starred in. Parton said yes, but then never heard anything more about how it would be used.

"I didn't know if they had it, I didn't know if they had done it," she told Clarkson.

"I was just driving along, I had the radio on," she continued. "When I heard the first 'If I...' I just freaked out. I had to pull over to the side because I honestly thought that I was gonna wreck. It was the most overwhelming feeling and you know how great that was."

Famed R&B singer Patti LaBelle almost recorded the hit

Before Houston sang "I Will Always Love You" in The Bodyguard, Parton had offered it to Patti Labelle.

In a 2019 appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, LaBelle revealed she was absolutely interested in covering the song and was in talks with Parton to do so.

"I said to Dolly, 'Oh yes, I want to do that song, honey!'" LaBelle said. "But before I could say real yes, it was in the movie and Whitney killed it."

"I was so happy Whitney got that song and it just went like it did. But Dolly Parton and I had planned. 'Patti, you're going to sing that song,'" LaBelle continued.

However, there were never any hard feelings.

"Next! That's how show-business is!" LaBelle added.

Elvis Presley nearly recorded the song, too

The line for "almost" having covered Parton's hit seems to be long, and it includes Elvis Presley. In a 2021 interview with W Magazine, Parton recalled meeting with Presley's manager at the time, who asked for half of Parton's publishing rights to the song in order for the "Hound Dog" singer to record it.

"I said, 'I'm sorry, but I can't give you the publishing.' I wanted to hear Elvis sing it, and it broke my heart — I cried all night," Parton said. "But I had to keep that copyright in my pocket. You have to take care of your business!"

The song was played at Houston's funeral

In that same 2021 W Magazine interview, Parton detailed a conversation she had with Priscilla Presley, in which the King's wife disclosed that when the couple divorced in 1973, Elvis sang the song to her.

"That touched me so deeply," Parton recalled, before adding, "And they also played the song at Whitney Houston's funeral. After that, I thought, I bet they'll play the same song when I go."

Parton used the royalties to support a Black community

Parton kept Houston in mind when deciding how to spend the money she's made from the song. During a 2021 appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Parton revealed that she'd invested the royalties in a Black community in Nashville.

"I bought a property down in what was the Black area of town, and it was mostly just Black families and people that lived around there. It was off the beaten path from 16th Avenue and I thought, 'Well, I am gonna buy this place — the whole strip mall.' And I thought, 'This is the perfect place for me to be,' considering it was Whitney," she said.

Parton continued, "I thought this was great — I'm just gonna be down here with her people, who are my people as well. So, I just love the fact that I spent that money on a complex and I think, 'This is the house that Whitney built.'"

The song's popularity among fans has sparked at least two lawsuits in the U.K.

In 1993, one 20-year-old fan of the song was jailed for a week in Britain after refusing to turn down her stereo blasting "I Will Always Love You."

That same year, another London woman threw her neighbor's stereo out of a fourth floor window (and was then attacked by said neighbor) because the neighbor's son wouldn't stop playing the song, either. The neighbor pleaded guilty to assault and was ordered to stay at a different address.

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