A duet between Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley? Sadly for music fans, that musical partnership never happened. But the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was apparently an admirer of the Queen of Country and even wanted to record one of her most famous songs. However, Parton’s reluctance to hand over the publishing rights to “I Will Always Love You” meant Presley never recorded a planned cover version of the tune. Still, Parton remained a fan of the “Hound Dog” singer, and once even said she felt she and Presley “were kin.”
Elvis Presley wanted to record Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’
Parton’s star was rising in a big way in the 1970s, as she scored hits with songs such as “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors.” In 1974, after ending her partnership with Porter Wagoner, she recorded “I Will Always Love You.” It topped the U.S. country charts and caught the ear of Presley, who was interested in recording his own version.
Parton was thrilled to learn Presley would be singing her song.
“I was so excited, I told everybody,” she said during the Sept. 21 episode of the Living and Learning with Reba McEntire podcast. “They had called me that Elvis was recording it and if I wanted to come to the studio. Elvis wanted to meet me and all that.”
Dolly Parton turned Elvis down
But joy turned to disappointment when Parton learned having The King record the song came with a catch. Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, told her it was standard practice to sign over at least half the publishing rights. Parton refused.
“I cried all night,” Parton remembered. “Oh, I just pictured Elvis, like, singing it. And I know that Elvis loved it… but it’s true. I said no.”
Parton’s decision would pay off in a big way a few decades later, when Whitney Houston scored a massive hit with her version of the song in the early 1990s.
Dolly Parton still felt a deep connection with The King
After saying no to Parker’s terms, Parton never had another chance to meet Presley.
“I never did [meet him],” she said in a 1978 interview with Playboy (reprinted in the 2017 book Dolly on Dolly). “But I always felt that we were kin.”
“I feel like I know exactly how he was,” she went on to say. “There were other people I liked to hear sing better, but there was nobody that I ever related to more.”
Parton thought Elvis ‘was totally in awe’ of his success
In Parton’s eyes, Elvis’s fame never went to his head.
“He was very loving, very emotional, very sensitive, very giving, very humble, thankful, grateful,” she told Playboy. “I always felt that he was totally in awe of his own success and he didn’t quite understand why he had been so chosen and why he was such an idol.”
The future 9 to 5 star also said she related to Presley’s faith.
“How he felt about God and religion was always somethin’ I related to a lot,” she said. “I watched and heard how he reacted to Gospel music and how he loved that the best of all and how he almost seemed to feel he had a callin’ to do somethin’ different and maybe more spiritual than what he was actually doin’, but you know, he never got a chance to try. He touched people’s lives in a lot of ways.”
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