I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU – Whitney Houston, 1992
Country fans know full well that Dolly Parton wrote and recorded “I Will Always Love You” as a farewell to her mentor and singing partner Porter Wagoner in 1974. Then she recorded it again for the movie soundtrack of “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” in 1982. Both versions are tender. The original is almost fragile with its spoken third verse. It is a truly beautiful song.
But that’s not the song the world knows. The world knows Whitney Houston’s version from a different movie soundtrack – “The Bodyguard” – ten years after Dolly’s second recording. Whitney, whose mom Cissy appeared earlier in this list as part of the Gospelaires, begins just as tenderly as Dolly. In fact, she begins a cappella. Then the orchestration sneaks in. She stays restrained.
That orchestration does her no favors, but as awesome rock critic Tom Breihan observes in his magnificent compendium of number-one songs, Whitney’s voice simply overwhelms the mediocrity of the arrangement. By the time she reaches the finale, she is singing with a raw power that few pop singers have ever matched. It hit number 1 around Thanksgiving of 1992. It was still number-one after Valentine's Day, 1993.