Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You" turned the song into the biggest hit Parton has ever written. At one point in the early 1990s, it was reported Parton made $1 million a week off Houston's recording, which spent 14 weeks at the top of Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart.
Some reports say Parton, who grew up dirt poor in Sevier County, earned $6 million off Houston's version of the song.
On Sunday, the day after Houston was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel room, Parton issued a release saying what the singer meant to her.
"Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston," Parton said.
"I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed."
Parton has never been shy to acknowledge how much of an impact Houston has had on her career, usually deadpanning about Houston's incredible range on "I Will Always Love You," something Parton's voice doesn't muster.
Many critics called "I Will Always Love You" Houston's signature song. Stephen Holden of The New York Times called her version a "magnificent rendition" and "Houston transforms a plaintive country ballad into a towering pop-gospel assertion of lasting devotion to a departing lover. Her voice breaking and tensing, she treats the song as a series of emotional bursts in a steady climb toward a final full-out declamation. Along the way, her virtuosic gospel embellishments enhance the emotion and never seem merely ornamental."
Wags said Parton and Houston were feuding over money made by the song. Both denied the talk.
To bring it even more into perspective: Houston was around 10 years old when Parton first made "I Will Love You Always" a hit. The song has been recorded by numerous acts, most notably Parton herself and as a duet between Parton and Vince Gill.
Only a few hours after Houston's death Sunday, "I Will Always Love You" topped the U.S. iTunes Charts.
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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