If you’ve kept up with my column thus far you’ll notice that most all of the posts I’ve written have had one thing in common: the cover I’m writing about is generally more famous than the original composition. This particular post however, is about the all too rare case of an original and a cover both having their moment in the spotlight and both receiving hefty praise from fans and critics alike.
I grew up knowing “I Will Always Love You” as a Whitney Houston song. Released in 1992 as the theme to the film Bodyguard, it immediately gained worldwide acclaim. Among other awards, Houston picked up six Billboard Music Awards, two Grammys, and two American Music Awards, in addition to the song’s chart success. The track is seen as Houston’s signature song, despite being composed and first performed by none other than Dolly Parton.
Parton’s original country version of “I Will Always Love You” was released in 1974 on her album Jolene. The song topped country charts and won her a County Music Award. She didn’t let the song stop there, though. Parton had a leading role in the film adaption of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which used most of the production’s original score. However, two of Parton’s songs—one being “I Will Always Love You”—made it into the film. The version used in the movie also found success on the charts—a historic moment for the singer/songwriter who was the first artist to have a number one record chart twice as a singer, and three times as a songwriter. Houston and Parton publicly shared in the success of the song when Parton presented Houston with her Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1994.
As always, there are many more covers of the song than just the ones I’ve focused on here. John Doe’s version was actually used in Bodyguard as well, during a scene where Houston and costar Kevin Costner dance together to the jukebox tune. Linda Ronstadt released her cover of the Parton original on her 1975 album Prisoner in Disguise, and would later go on to collaborate with Emmylou Harris and Dolly herself on album called Trio.
Four decades after the original release and “I Will Always Love You” has lived up to its name. The song is still a go-to for powerhouse vocalists wanting to show off their skills, broken hearted people needing a good cry, and loud, drunk people at a karaoke bar who are convinced they can hit those high notes.
Did I miss your favorite cover of “I Will Always Love You”? Let me know in the comments!