Back in 1974, Dolly Parton had a huge hit in her original song I Will Always Love You. And it wasn’t long before Elvis Presley’s manager The Colonel came knocking asking if The King could cover the No 1 song. Initially, the Country singer was incredibly excited by the prospect, but little did the star know that she’d end up in tears.
Speaking on Living and Learning with Reba McEntire, Dolly said: “I was so excited, I told everybody. They had called me that Elvis was recording it, and if I wanted to come to the studio. Elvis wanted to meet me and all that.”
But The Colonel said to her: “You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have the publishing, or at least half the publishing.”
She replied: “Well, that throws a new light on this because I can’t give you half the publishing. I’m gonna leave that to my family. I can’t do that.”
The infamously uncompromising manager then told her that The King could not cover the song without those terms but the Country star remained unrelenting and burst into tears.
Dolly shared: “I cried all night. Oh, I just pictured Elvis, like, singing it. And I know that Elvis loved it. And I know it wasn’t him, but it’s true. I said no.”
She said to CMT: “I always wondered what it would sound like. I know he’d kill it. Don’t you? He would have killed it.”
Dolly was even told by Priscilla Presley that The King sang I Will Always Love You to her as they came down the steps of the divorce courthouse following their divorce, which really touched her.
But in the end, the Country singer’s decision paid off as in 1992 Whitney Houston recorded her cover of the track for the soundtrack of The Bodyguard. In fact, it was her co-star Kevin Costner who had suggested it.
Houston’s version of I Will Always Love You spent a record-breaking 14 weeks at No 1 in the US Billboard charts and is the best-selling single by a female artist and the sixth biggest single of all time with over 20 million sales. In fact, the cover just beats Elvis’ It’s Now or Never into seventh place.
Dolly later said that although she declined The King’s offer for half the copyright: “When Whitney [Houston’s version] came out, I made enough money to buy Graceland.”
The Bodyguard version late reentered the charts upon Houston’s untimely death at just 48 in 2012.
But despite it all working out for the Country star, she still wished she could have met Elvis, which ended up inspiring a song that gave her some closure on the matter.
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Long after Elvis’ death in 1977, Dolly wrote a track called I Dreamed About Elvis Last Night, which she performs at her live shows.
The track, which the 76-year-old hopes to record one day, sees Dolly share the stage with an Elvis impersonator who she makes up with and then sings I Will Always Love You as a duet.
The lyrics for Dolly’s Elvis song go: “Last night I dreamed of Elvis, he was standing in the light. Looking radiant and beautiful just like he did in life. I said, ‘E, it’s good to see you, you look so healthy and at peace.’
The Elvis impersonator then replies: “Y’know I’m really happy here, how’s things Tennessee?”
Dolly continues: “Well I told him we all missed him, that the whole world loved the King.”
Before Elvis gets down on one knee and says: “Y’know if things were different I’d ask you to wear my ring!” After asking if she could call him “El”, Dolly says: “Am I just dreaming?”
The duo then launches into the chorus before Dolly sings to The King how she wished he had sung one of her own songs.
Elvis replies: “I almost did one of yours, the one about true love.” And in the end, Dolly and The King sing a brief duet of I Will Always Love You.