Songs of 74: I Will Always Love You / Dolly Parton

This year Radioinfo will take you back 50 years to the songs that were released in 1974. It was a mighty fine year for music.

‘I Will Always Love You’, which didn’t chart in Australia (for Dolly Parton I mean), has two of my favourite music trivia stories behind it.

Parton is still surprised how many people don’t realise that not only did she sing this first, but it is her original composition. ‘I Will Always Love You’, the Whitney Houston cover used in the film The Bodyguard became the best selling single by a woman in music history. That also means it is the best selling single written by a woman in music history.

In 1973 Parton had been part of a TV show hosted and run by Porter Wagoner for seven years and felt it was time to come out from under his shadow. She wrote ‘I Will Always Love You’ for Wagoner as a way of sweetening the goodbye. It was released as the second single off Parton’s 13th solo album in 1974, went to No 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. It later appeared in Dolly’s cult 1982 film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. She re-released it and it again went to No 1 on those charts.

That 13th solo album of Dolly’s was called Jolene. I will bet that even if you’re not a country music or Dolly Parton fan you can guess what the lead single was. ‘Jolene’, the song, is Parton’s most covered track and astonishingly it too did not chart in Australia, except in 1976 as a minor hit for Olivia Newton-John.

After the release of ‘I Will Always Love You’ in 1974, Elvis Presley contacted Dolly saying he loved the song and wanted to record it. Parton was invited to the recording session and was so thrilled that she told everyone she knew.

Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker, the night before the recording called Dolly and told her it was standard procedure that anyone who wrote a song that Elvis performed had to sign over half of their publishing rights.

I’m not sure if she did it immediately, or slept on it, but Dolly turned the offer and the opportunity to have Elvis record her music, down. She said that she cried all night and had many of those who she’d told about the recording session tell her that the decision was foolish and career destroying.

Later, and this is the first of the stories I love and repeat often, Dolly said that the money from Whitney’s version could have allowed Parton to buy Graceland, had she wanted to.

The second story I love is that Dolly Parton wrote ‘I Will Always Love You’ AND ‘Jolene’ on the same day.

As Dolly once said of herself:

“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know that I’m not blonde.”

By Jen Seyderhelm – Radioinfo Writer, Editor and Music Trivia Buff.


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