August 16, 2020

Dolly Parton Refused to Let Elvis Presley Cover Her Iconic Song – Here's Why

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The “Jolene” singer once had to say no to the one and only “King of Rock & Roll,” even if it broke her heart. But it turned out to be one of her best business decisions.

74-year-old country music legend Dolly Parton has led an outstanding career not only in the music business, but she has also ventured into everything from owning a theme park to writing children’s books, being a recognizable face in America for more than five decades. 

Among the endless list of hits she has created, the song “I Will Always Love You” is not only one of the most iconic, but also the one with one of the most interesting stories.

Dolly Parton attends the 53nd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on November 13, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. I Image: Getty Images.


Written by Parton, the song was first recorded and released by her in 1974, rapidly reaching the top of the charts. The song was so catchy and touching, and it was so well-received that it caught the attention of the “King of Rock & Roll” himself.

Elvis Presley reportedly loved the song, and he even used to sing it to his wife Priscilla, and he approached Parton with the intention of asking her permission for him to record his own version of “I Will Always Love You.”


As Parton recalled, she was thrilled with the idea of Elvis covering her song, since she was very fond of him, but she had to back off from it when Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, demanded for her to give up half of the publishing rights.

“That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do because I loved Elvis,” Parton told Billboard recently.



While Parton is known for being business savvy in all her endeavors, this particular decision to protect her copyrights above all things proved to be especially wise, considering the impact the song was going to have more than 20 years later when an entirely new generation fell in love with it in the voice of Whitney Houston.

But first, Parton managed to make the song reach No. 1 for a second time in 1982, when she re-recorded for the film “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

Ten years later, the song was included in the soundtrack of the blockbuster “The Bodyguard,” in a beautiful rendition by Houston, who was also the main star of the film. The cover was an instant hit, earning its place in the Billboard Hot 100.



By listening to the lyrics of the fan-favorite song, which millions of people probably know by heart, it would be easy to assume that the song was written for a former lover that the person singing it is forced to leave even if the two know they will always love each other.


This interpretation is not only logical but also very relatable, and this has played an important role in the way the song was welcomed by the mainstream public.


But the fact is that Parton actually wrote the tune after she had to leave behind her professional relationship with her mentor and former duet partner Porter Wagoner, to pursue a solo career and capitalize on her immense success. 

As Parton revealed years after first releasing the song, Wagoner was not listening to her reasons to leave him and was hurt about her decision, so she decided to reach him by turning her feelings into a song. The rest is history.