Before Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” almost ended up with Elvis Presley.
In a new cover story for W magazine, the country legend revealed why the King of Rock & Roll never got a chance to record the iconic 1974 ballad.
According to Parton, she met with Presley’s manager, who wanted half of the 75-year-old’s publishing rights in exchange for the singer to record the song.
Parton said she wasn’t having it.
“I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t give you the publishing,’” she recalled to the outlet. “I wanted to hear Elvis sing it, and it broke my heart – I cried all night.”
Still, the singer/songwriter said she doesn’t regret her decision.
“I had to keep that copyright in my pocket,” Parton explained. “You have to take care of your business! Everybody’s going to use you if they can. These are my songs – they’re like my children. And I expect them to support me when I’m old!”
The outlet noted that while Presley never had the chance to record the song, it still played an important role in his life.
“Priscilla, Elvis’s wife, told me that when she and Elvis divorced, Elvis sang my song to her,” said Parton. “That touched me so deeply.”
Presley and Priscilla divorced in 1973. The star passed away in 1977 at age 42.
Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You” was released in 1992 for “The Bodyguard.” The film’s soundtrack sold 17 million copies and broke SoundScan’s record for single-week sales twice, The Hollywood Reporter shared. According to the outlet, “The Bodyguard” earned a Grammy for Album of the Year and “I Will Always Love You” won Record of the Year along with Best Female Pop Vocal.
Houston passed away in 2012 at age 48.
“They also played the song at Whitney Houston’s funeral,” said Parton. “After that, I thought, I bet they’ll play the same song when I go.”
Looking back at her career, Parton said there was one song that greatly impacted her as a young artist.
“When I heard ‘Puppy Love’ on the radio for the first time, I about killed myself,” she said. “I was sitting on the counter at my aunt’s house, and suddenly I heard my voice. I slid on the floor, ‘cause she was mopping. I was trying to get to the radio. Even to this day, I’ve never had anything that was more exciting than the first time I heard myself on the radio.”
As for fellow musicians, there was one who caught the icon’s eye.
“In the early days, I had a big crush on Johnny Cash,” she gushed. “He was young and skinny, and he just had that magnetism. The way he moved around – you know, so sexy. I found out later he was just having withdrawals from drugs, but it still touched me. He was so, so sexy.”
Parton is the second-most nominated woman in Grammy history, only behind Beyoncé, who has 79 nods and 24 wins. The country icon earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award a decade ago.
Among her wins, Parton picked up two Grammys for the massive hit “9 to 5” and another for “Trio,” her first collaborative album with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. An updated version of “Jolene” won Parton and Pentatonix a trophy. At the 1983 show, the legend scored a nomination for a re-recording of “I Will Always Love You.”
A collaborative performance of the song with Vince Gill earned a nomination at the 1996 show — two years after Houston’s famous rendition.