In 1974, Dolly Parton released “I Will Always Love You” just in time for Valentine’s Day as part of her now-iconic album, Jolene. The song not only hit number one on the country music charts but became one of the best-selling singles of the year. It became so popular, in fact, that it drew the attention of The King.
Now, Dolly’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” is, of course, legendary. But it also became one of the best cover songs of all time when Whitney Houston made it her own in 1992, sending the song skyrocketing once again. If Colonel Tom Parker had his way back in 1974, however, it would’ve been Elvis Presley turning Dolly’s heartfelt track into a hit of his own.
Well, the cover never happened. And it’s not because Dolly Parton wasn’t an Elvis fan. On the contrary, she’s always been open about her excitement around the idea of The King covering one of her songs. Dolly had no choice but to politely decline Elvis’ request, though. Had she agreed, Colonel Tom Parker would have received half of the publishing rights to her hit.
“Elvis was going to sing ‘I Will Always Love You,’” Parton recalled in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “And Colonel Tom Parker said he had to have the publishing, and I said no. And thank God when Whitney put it out, I made all that money that would’ve gone into Colonel Tom Parker’s family’s pocket.”
Dolly Parton made the right choice in protecting herself and her own interests. It didn’t make the decision an easy one, though. “It broke my heart that I didn’t get to do it with Elvis,” Parton explained. “I thought, ‘I’m going to hear Elvis sing this.’”
Dolly Parton Credits Her Father for Her Business Acumen
Dolly Parton was just 28 years old the year “I Will Always Love You” hit the charts for the first time and she received the call from Elvis Presley’s camp. Despite her young age, however, she was able to look past her adoration for The King and make the decision that was right for her.
“Most people would’ve done it,” Parton said of Parker’s outrageous request. “But that was my most important contract, and I had already had a No. 1 record on it myself at that time.”
“I had just started my own publishing company, and that was my biggest song to date,” she added. “I had ‘Jolene’ and I had that. Those two songs were in the same album. Those were the two biggest songs in my catalog. I just had to say no.”
Humble as always, Dolly took none of the credit for her impeccable foresight. Instead, Dolly thanked her father, Lee Parton, for her business acumen.
“That was Lee Parton, my daddy, part of me that came out,” she said. “Because my Daddy was really smart in business. He couldn’t read and write, but Daddy was so smart, and so I just knew, ‘You ain’t getting it.’ I’m so sorry, so sorry.”
“It was like a heartache. It was like being with a man that you love, but you know he’s terrible for you; you got to get out before he kills you. I mean, that’s a bad analogy, but in a way, it was kind of like, ‘You know, I know this ain’t right for me.’”
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