LONDON. — Are you having a productive day? Perhaps consider Dolly Parton and think again.

One afternoon in 1973, a flash of inspiration saw her sit down and write two classics back to back.

First came Jolene — a career-defining smash, synonymous with Parton alone. The next? I Will Always Love You.

Not a bad nine-to-five.

That tender second track, released 50 years ago this week, remains one of her lesser-known credits, despite soundtracking love and heartbreak for half a century. 

It was Whitney Houston’s cover version, recorded for the soundtrack of The Bodyguard in 1992, that elevated the song to classic status.

A response to Parton’s Instagram post celebrating the anniversary of “her song” made the public’s confusion clear.

“It will always hold a special place in my heart as I hope it does yours,” Parton wrote on Tuesday, only for one of the top-rated replies to confess: “I never realised it was your song.”

So, after five decades of loving declarations (reciprocated or otherwise), we look at I Will Always Love You’s eventful past — from Elvis Presley’s failed attempt to poach the song, to the surprising way Parton spent her royalties. 

What a way to make a living.

The sweetness of Dolly Parton’s original version belies the independent, lone-wolf mindset that created it.

Having moved to Nashville from east Tennessee after leaving school in 1964, Parton found only middling success as a singer-songwriter before catching the eye of singer Bill Phillips, who duetted on her song Put it Off Until Tomorrow.

Country star Porter Wagoner then invited Parton to be the “girl singer” on his TV show — eventually signing her to his label and giving her the big break she craved.

Parton’s first single on that label, a cover of Tom Paxton’s The Last Thing on My Mind, was a duet with Wagoner. 

When it made the country top 10 in 1968, it sparked the beginning of a formidable musical partnership.

And so Parton’s I Will Always Love You — an ode of heartfelt thanks beset with steely defiance — was born.

The next morning, she strode into Wagoner’s office and told him to sit down. “I sang the song alone in his office — just me and my guitar,” she told Stern.

Tears rolled down his face from behind the desk. “That’s the best song you’ve ever wrote,” he told her. “You can go if I can produce the song.”

Marc Lee, who wrote about the song for the Financial Times’ Life of a Song column, told the BBC it endures as “an extraordinarily heart-rending blend of silky fragility and searing intensity”. — BBC.

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