Dolly Parton gives royalties from Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ to Black community
By Sudiksha Kochi
August 2, 2021
Dolly Parton has added another item to her long list of philanthropic acts: investing royalties from Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You” to a local Black community in Nashville.
In an appearance on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen” on Thursday, Parton revealed to host Andy Cohen that the money she earned in royalties from gaining songwriting credits for Houston was invested in a property in a historically Black neighborhood in Nashville.
“I bought a property in what was the Black area of town and it was mostly just Black families and people that lived around there and it was just off the beaten path from 16th Avenue,” Parton tells Cohen after he tossed her a question on what was the best thing she bought or invested in using those royalties.
“It was a whole strip mall, and I thought this is the perfect place for me to be, considering it was Whitney, so I just thought, ‘This is great, I’m just going to be down here with her people, who are my people as well,’” Parton said.
The song “I Will Always Love You” was written by Parton at a time when she was trying to leave Porter Wagoner’s show that she started working with him on in 1967. She told Wagoner that she would only stay on the show for five years.
“Five years passed, and I was still in the show. We were having big hit duets. It was his show, and I understood all that, but I still wanted to go. So we were going around and around with that,” Parton told the Tennessean.
“So, finally, I thought, ‘How am I gonna make him understand how much I appreciate everything, but that I have to go? He won’t listen to me. He’s not listening to reason when I want to go!’ So I went home and I thought, ‘Well, what do you do best? You write songs.’ So I sat down and I wrote this song.”
The song appeared on Parton’s album “Jolene” in 1974, earning a number one spot on country music charts, and it earned a top spot again in 1982 when she rerecorded the version for the soundtrack “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” according to the Washington Post.
In 1992, Whitney Houston recorded her version of the song for her film, the Bodyguard. The song was part of the original soundtrack album of the Bodyguard that ended up winning the Grammy Album of the Year Award in 1993.
“My heart almost just popped. It was such an overwhelming feeling to hear it done so great, with such a great and huge production, and with her voice. That was amazing,” Parton told the Tennessean.
Parton purchased the 6,317-square-foot Mission-style complex in Nashville in February 1997, according to property records obtained by The Washington Post. David Ewing, a well-known Nashville historian, told USA TODAY that Parton’s contribution came at a time when most artists wouldn’t look towards the neighborhood to purchase property.
“Clearly, Dolly Parton could have bought a property anywhere in Nashville. And at the time, it probably would have made more sense for who she was. I mean, it would have made more sense for Dolly to buy a music room where all the recording companies are and the artists management companies are,” Ewing said.
But, Ewing says Parton has always used her voice and her platform to talk about people who don’t get the attention they deserve.
“The fact that Dolly Parton would have a presence in this very famous historically Black neighborhood is a very cool thing and very thoughtful,” Ewing said.
Contributing: Dave Paulson, USA TODAY network
Source: USA Today