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40 Years Ago: Dolly Parton Hits No. 1 With ‘I Will Always Love You’

Dolly Parton I Will Always Love You Cover Art

40 years ago today (June 8, 1974) was a historic day for Dolly Parton. It was on this day that the songstress landed at the top of the charts with her song, ‘I Will Always Love You,’ from her ‘Jolene’ album.

Chances are, Parton had no idea how monumental the tune would become when she wrote it. The song, which became one of the biggest hits of her career, was written to her one-time mentor, Porter Wagoner, when she decided to end her professional partnership with him, and launch out on her own.

“It’s saying, ‘Just because I’m going don’t mean I won’t love you, she explains. “I appreciate you and I hope you do great and I appreciate everything you’ve done, but I’m out of here.”

While Parton and Wagoner remained estranged for much of their careers, they made up before Wagoner’s death in 2007. Parton sang the song for him at a special ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry only a few months before he passed away.

“It was the most emotional night that I’ve ever spent at the Opry in my whole life,” Wagoner told Yahoo! Music. “And Dolly of course sang that song ‘I Will Always Love You,’ and they had me sitting on a stool, and she just came out and wiped some of the tears away… She meant it for me, and wrote it for me, she said. That’s a wonderful thing that she stood there and sang it for the whole world to see. And the evening was unbelievable.”

The song almost became a hit for another big star, Elvis Presley. The King of Rock and Roll wanted to record it, but the songstress refused after Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, insisted Presley receive half of the publishing royalties on the song.

The song was also included on the soundtrack for the 1982 film, ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,’ in which Parton starred, along with Burt Reynolds. It returned to the top position on the charts, making Parton the first artist to earn a No. 1 record twice with the same song and same singer.

‘I Will Always Love You’ has been covered by numerous artists, including Linda Ronstadt, LeAnn Rimes and Lulu Roman. But it was Whitney Houston’s version, in 1992, for the film, ‘The Bodyguard,’ that introduced the anthemic love song to an entirely new audience. Houston’s version also soared to the top of the charts, where it stayed for a record-breaking 14 weeks.

Parton also recorded the song with Vince Gill in 1995, for his greatest hits ‘Souvenirs’ album. Even though their version wasn’t officially released as a single, it peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard chart. They also sang it at the 1995 CMA Awards. Watch their performance here.

‘I Will Always Love You’ remains one of the best-selling songs of all time. Download the single here.

Next: The Top 10 Dolly Parton Songs

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