Dolly Parton has released some incredible songs over the years, many of which have shaped her career as well as the Country music culture. But her 1974 song “I Will Always Love You” is perhaps her biggest song ever written.
And she originally wrote it for the entertainment show host Porter Wagoner, who was born around this time – August 12 – back in 1927.
In the early 1970s, Dolly had been recruited as a main part of the entertainment on Porter’s TV show.
The Porter Wagoner Show had Dolly on it for seven years, from 1967 to 1974, where her tenure catapulted her career to stratospheric success.
But, there came a day when she decided she had to leave the show.
Looking back, Dolly recalled: “Well, five years passed, and I was still in the show. We were having big hit duets. It was his show, and I understood all that, but I still wanted to go. So we were going around and around with that. So, finally, I thought: ‘How am I gonna make him understand how much I appreciate everything, but that I have to go? He won’t listen to me. He’s not listening to reason when I want to go!'” (sic)
“So I went home,” Dolly continued. “And I thought: ‘Well, what do you do best? You write songs.’ So I sat down and I wrote this song [I Will Always Love You].”
The following day at work, she sat Porter down and told him she had “written something I think you need to hear”.
“I started singing I Will Always Love You,” she remembered. “And he started crying. When I finished, he said: ‘Well, hell! If you feel that strong about it, just go on — providing I get to produce that record because that’s the best song you ever wrote.'”
Of course, I Will Always Love You became a monolithic hit. It hit number one in the USA Country charts before selling more than 20 million copies to date.
Still, Dolly looked back on the song – and Porter – fondly.
Dolly added: “Of course time mellows you out, and we got to be really good friends again. We got to perform the song together on a special show at the Grand Ole Opry, and that was a real special time for me. I really loved that, and so did he.”
Years later, Porter fell ill with lung cancer in 2007.
Dolly revealed she was with him during his final moments.
“I was with Porter when he died,” she said. “I was with his children and him, a few hours before he passed.”
In a beautiful final gesture, Dolly decided to do what she could to comfort him.
She said: “I had a chance to be with Porter, and I sang a little bit of ‘I Will Always Love You’ to him on that day as well.”
I Will Always Love You was later covered by Whitney Houston for the Titanic movie.
Elvis Presley also wanted to buy the song’s rights, but Dolly refused.