Kevin Costner Is Responsible for Part of Whitney Houston’s Iconic Version of ‘I Will Always Love You’
Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” is Houston’s signature song. Released as a single from Houston’s first movie role in The Bodyguard, the song is Houston’s highest-selling and highest performing singles of her career. If it weren’t for her co-star Kevin Costner’s idea to start the song acapella, “I Will Always Love You” would probably have not achieved the level of success.
Kevin Costner is responsible for “I Will Always Love You” starting off acapella
David Foster was hired to produce the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. He struggled to find the perfect signature song for the film. Foster’s documentary, David Foster: Off The Record, goes behind the scenes of the recording process of some of hits biggest hits.
“The big thing what – was kind of song could really capture the essence of the leads, the emotion, and make it more than just a thriller,” said Clive Davis, head of Houston’s record label.
Foster initially liked “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” a midtempo track by Jimmy Ruffin. But Foster only liked the hook of the song and needed something greater. He came across Dolly Parton’s version of “I Will Always Love You” and knew instantly how to make the song work for Houston.
Costner insisted the song begin with an acapella. Foster was not a fan of Costner’s suggestion, agreeing to do the record Costner’s way for Houston’s performance in the film. He planned to add music to the opening for the single release. Foster completed the mix by starting Houston acapella, per Costner’s request, and Davis loved it.
David Foster and Clive Davis argued over the opening of “I Will Always Love You”
Davis and Costner loved the original mix with Houston starting the song acapella, but Foster was still not convinced. “It gave me chills,” Davis said.
Foster fought to add music to the song. Davis insisted he knew what Houston would prefer. Still, Foster continued to fight his case as he didn’t believe the song would be played on the radio if it started acapella.
“He repeated more obscenities in this conversation than I had ever heard,” Davis said of Foster. Davis cut the conversation short to avoid further conflict.
The final decision about the song was left up to Davis. He went with his gut and kept the opening of Houston singing acapella.
“I Will Always Love You” became a huge hit
Costner’s idea struck gold and thankfully, Davis listened. The song spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and became Houston’s longest-running No. 1 single.
The song succeeded during award show season as well, winning record of the year at the Grammy Awards in 1993, six Billboard Music Awards, and two American Music Awards.
“I Will Always Love You” propelled The Bodyguard into becoming the greatest-selling movie soundtrack of all time. Foster said the album sold over 45 million copies worldwide.
Foster later apologized to Davis, with Davis saying of his conversation with Foster, “Everyone is calling me telling me it’s the greatest record they’ve ever heard in their life.”
Foster said of the experience, “It became the most important project of my life.”
“I Will Always Love You” was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2020.