Business savvy! Dolly Parton revealed the hardest thing she’s ever done in her career was to not accept Elvis Presley’s offer to sing her hit song, “I Will Always Love You.” Before the late Whitney Houston made it popular in the ’90s, Elvis expressed interest in the tune, but Dolly said she had to turn him down because he was also asking for half of the publishing.
“That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, because I loved Elvis,” the “Jolene” musician recalled to Billboard. But it was a good thing that Dolly stuck to her guns. When she let Whitney record the song for her 1992 film The Bodyguard, it immediately blew up the charts. The movie’s hit single spent 14 weeks at the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, which was a record at the time, and made Dolly even more successful.
While looking back, the “9 to 5” singer said “I Will Always Love You” was her “most important copyright at the time” so she couldn’t give it to Elvis. “If it had been a new song, I might have considered it.”
She also credits her father for helping her make that tough decision. “Even though my daddy didn’t get an education, my daddy was really smart in making deals and bargaining and how he raised a family like he did,” Dolly said.
Because of the song’s success, the entertainer was awarded a plaque from Broadcast Music Inc. for “I Will Always Love You” being one of their most-performed songs. “Dolly’s career is extraordinary. She is, of course, an incredible performer, actor, philanthropist and businessperson, but for us, it all starts with her songwriting,” BMI’s president and CEO Mike O’Neill said in a statement. “She tells stories in her songs like no one else can, transcending genres and connecting with her millions of fans. Dolly’s lyrics and music, authenticity, strength, and humor are all extraordinary gifts she has shared with the world.”
But sometimes Dolly still thinks about what would have happened if she gave that song to Elvis many years ago. “Can you imagine Elvis singing ‘I Will Always Love You?’” she asked. “He would have sung it great.”