This Morning: Whitney Houston hologram performs in studio
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Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston are two of America’s biggest singers ever. But did you know the incredible links between the two late star?
Back in 1963, Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston became part of a backing singer group called The Sweet Inspirations who performed around the USA with some huge headliners like Aretha Franklin. Another of them was Elvis Presley at his Las Vegas residencies, which began in 1969.
Cissy, who said he wasn’t prejudiced, cracked jokes and was so good-looking, recalled: “Elvis loved gospel music. He was raised on it. And he really did know what he was talking about. He was singing Gospel all the time – almost anything he did had that flavour. You can’t get away from what your roots are.”
It wasn’t long then before Whitney met Elvis himself that same year when she was just a little girl.
The singer, who died in 2012 at 48, told Access Hollywood: “I just remember at one point being [backstage]…and he just walked into the room with his mink on and his glasses on. He says something and you don’t say anything, you just look. It was just one of those moments I won’t forget as a kid…you just sat back and just looked at him. Amazing to look at, just amazing. Just to be in his presence was awesome.”
Little did Whitney know that years later her biggest hit would be a song written by Dolly Parton, that the Country singer wouldn’t let Elvis sing.
Back in 1974, Dolly had a big hit with I Will Always Love You and it wasn’t long before The King’s manager Colonel Tom Parker came asking for his client to cover it.
Speaking on Living and Learning with Reba McEntire, Dolly said: “I was so excited, I told everybody. 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.”
But The Colonel said to her: “You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have the publishing, or at least half the publishing.”
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Dolly replied: “Well, that throws a new light on this because I can’t give you half the publishing. I’m gonna leave that to my family. I can’t do that.”
The infamously uncompromising manager then told her that The King could not cover the song without those terms but the Country star remained unrelenting and burst into tears.
Dolly shared: “I cried all night. Oh, I just pictured Elvis, like, singing it. And I know that Elvis loved it. And I know it wasn’t him, but it’s true. I said no.”
Nevertheless, keeping the rights massively paid off for Dolly when Whitney recorded a cover for The Bodyguard movie in 1992.
Houston’s version of I Will Always Love You spent a record-breaking 14 weeks at No 1 in the US Billboard charts and is the best-selling single by a female artist and the sixth biggest single of all time with over 20 million sales. In fact, the cover just beats Elvis’ It’s Now or Never into seventh place.
Dolly later said that although she declined The King’s offer for half the copyright: “When Whitney [Houston’s version] came out, I made enough money to buy Graceland.”
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