“I Will Always Love You” Lyrics Meaning [Explained]

Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is a song that has resonated with audiences for decades, capturing the essence of love, heartache, and the bittersweet nature of saying goodbye.

With its powerful lyrics and soul-stirring melody, the song has become a symbol of enduring love and the difficult choices we sometimes have to make in relationships.

In this article, we will delve into the meaning behind the lyrics, breaking down each verse and chorus to uncover the emotions and messages that have made this song an enduring classic.

Lyrics Interpretation

Before we delve into the story behind this song, let’s take a closer look at each verse of the lyrics.

Verse 1

If I should stay

I would only be in your way

So I’ll go but I know

I’ll think of you every step of the way

The song begins with the protagonist acknowledging the need to leave their partner. This decision is not made lightly, but rather out of the recognition that their presence is causing more harm than good. The protagonist is making a sacrifice for the betterment of both individuals, despite the pain it will cause.

Although they will physically part ways, the emotional connection remains strong, as the protagonist promises to think of their partner every step of the way.


And I will always love you

I will always love you


My darling, you


The chorus is a straightforward declaration of the protagonist’s unwavering love for their partner. Despite the separation, their love remains steadfast and eternal.

The repetition of the phrase “I will always love you” drives home the message of enduring love and the depth of the emotional bond between the two individuals.

Verse 2

Bittersweet memories –

That is all I’m taking with me

So good-bye

Please don’t cry:

We both know I’m not what you, you need

In this verse, the protagonist speaks of taking only “bittersweet memories” with them. This highlights the mixed emotions that come with saying goodbye – while the memories they shared may be cherished, the pain of parting ways tinges them with sadness.

The protagonist asks their partner not to cry, reiterating that the decision to leave is for the best. It is an acknowledgment that sometimes love is not enough, and that each person must make difficult choices for their own well-being and growth.


I hope life treats you kind

And I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of

And I’m wishing you joy and happiness

But above all this, I wish you love

The bridge offers a heartfelt message of hope for the partner’s future. The protagonist wishes them a life filled with kindness, dreams fulfilled, joy, and happiness.

The most significant wish, however, is for their partner to find love – a testament to the protagonist’s selflessness and genuine care for their partner’s well-being.

Chorus Reprise

And I… will always love you

I will always love you

I will always love you

I will always love you

I will always love you

I, I will always love you


Darling, I love you

I’ll always

I’ll always love you



The song concludes with an extended reprise of the chorus, further emphasizing the timelessness of the protagonist’s love for their partner. The repetition of “I will always love you” serves as a reminder that, despite the distance and circumstances, their love will never waver.

True Meaning Behind “I Will Always Love You”

Dolly Parton’s iconic song, “I Will Always Love You,” has a deeper meaning that many listeners may not be aware of. This country love song, penned by Dolly herself in 1973, is a poignant farewell to her former partner and mentor, Porter Wagoner. The duo ended their successful seven-year partnership, and Dolly used the song to demonstrate that breakups don’t have to be bitter; respect can still be maintained even when relationships come to an end.

Author Curtis W. Ellison describes the song’s theme as a man and woman choosing to end their relationship amicably. The touching message might be easy to miss, given the song’s mesmerizing melody and Dolly’s powerful voice. Interestingly, Dolly recorded this classic hit in RCA Studio B in Nashville on June 12, 1973.

Many fans might not realize that Dolly wrote the song herself. Her manager, Danny Nozel, once mentioned in an interview that even the American Idol judges were surprised to learn this fact. Dolly’s incredible songwriting ability is evident in her capacity to create timeless melodies.

A little-known fact is that Dolly wrote “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” on the same day. During an appearance on The Bobby Bones Show, she revealed this impressive tidbit to her fans.

Here’s a fun piece of trivia: Dolly once suggested to singer Patti LaBelle that she record “I Will Always Love You,” believing Patti’s rendition would be stunning. However, Patti kept delaying it and eventually regretted not taking the opportunity. As we all know, Whitney Houston went on to record her legendary version of the song, securing its place in music history.

Cover Versions

1974 version

In 1974, Dolly Parton released “I Will Always Love You” as the second single from her album “Jolene”. The song became a hit, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and becoming one of the top-selling singles of that year. It also reached number four on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart.

Interestingly, Elvis Presley was interested in covering the song after it reached number one on the country charts. However, Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager, informed Parton that it was customary for the songwriter to sign over half of the publishing rights to any song that Presley recorded. Parton was not willing to do so and had to turn down the opportunity, even though it was a dream come true for her. She remembers crying all night and feeling like she had missed out on a major opportunity.

Despite not being covered by Presley, the song went on to win Parton the Female Vocalist of the Year award at the 1975 CMA Awards. The song would later gain further success when Whitney Houston released a cover of it in 1992, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time. Parton earned a lot of money from the success of Houston’s cover, enough to even buy Graceland.

1982 version

Dolly Parton re-recorded her classic song “I Will Always Love You” for the 1982 film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. It was released as the first single from the movie’s soundtrack album, and it eventually hit number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. This rare achievement made Dolly one of the few artists to reach the number one position twice with the same song.

Billboard magazine gave a thumbs-up review of the song, praising Dolly’s more stylized version of the pop ballad she wrote years earlier. However, some fans might be divided on the breathier interpretation of the tune. Nevertheless, the soaring chorus and beautiful melody still make it a lovely ballad.

Cashbox also gave the single a favorable review, saying that Dolly’s vocals were more convincing and moving than ever before. The song is a sentiment wrapped in an appropriate package, complete with strings, oboe, harp, and a delicate rhythm section.

Overall, Dolly’s re-recording of “I Will Always Love You” for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was a great success, and it remains a beloved classic to this day.

1995 version

Did you know that Dolly Parton recorded a version of “I Will Always Love You” with Vince Gill back in ’95? Yeah, it was for her album called “Something Special”.

The duet got some unexpected airtime after they performed it at the Grand Ole Opry on August 26th, which was shown on TNN. Radio stations started playing it, and it ended up debuting at number 53 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Not too shabby!

Then, after they performed it at the 29th Annual CMA Awards, it was officially released as a single in November ’95. It peaked at number 15, which was actually the third time that Parton had a top 20 hit with the song. Talk about a classic!

By the way, did you know that the song was nominated for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards? Plus, it was named Vocal Event of the Year at the 30th Annual CMA Awards.

Whitney Houston version

Whitney Houston’s amazing song “I Will Always Love You” was recorded in 1992 as the lead single for The Bodyguard soundtrack. It’s hard to imagine that the song almost didn’t make it to the album.

Originally, Houston was set to record “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” but it was being used for another film, and so she had to look for another track. Luckily for us, her co-star Kevin Costner suggested “I Will Always Love You.”

Houston and producer David Foster worked their magic on the song, rearranging it as a soul ballad. To make it even more special, Dolly Parton, the original writer of the song, gave Foster the final verse, which was missing from Linda Ronstadt’s version. 

Houston used Ronstadt’s version as a template, and her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” became one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling over 20 million copies worldwide. It’s no wonder the song is included in so many lists of the greatest songs of all time. This soulful ballad has stolen our hearts and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Music Video

Whitney Houston’s music video for “I Will Always Love You” is a classic that has stood the test of time. While the video credits Alan Smithee as the director, it is well known that Nick Brandt removed his name from the project due to the way Clive Davis re-edited it. Regardless of the behind-the-scenes drama, the video is a stunning visual representation of the song.

The video starts with footage from Houston’s performance of the song at the end of the movie The Bodyguard. It then transitions to Houston dressed in a dark blue suit, sitting in an empty theater with a spotlight shining on her, singing of her love.

As she reaches the dramatic vocal finale, the theater transforms into an open camp surrounded by snow, which was filmed at Fallen Leaf Lake, California, where The Bodyguard’s boat scene was shot. The video also includes scenes from the movie, which allows viewers to relive the moments with Houston.

Interestingly, Houston was pregnant with her daughter Bobbi Kristina during the video’s shoot, which is why she is only shown sitting in the theater scenes. Despite this limitation, the video is still a powerful and emotional experience for viewers.

In 2020, the video for “I Will Always Love You” hit a major milestone by reaching one billion views on YouTube. It was the first music video of the 20th century by a solo artist to achieve this feat. Later that year, a 4k version of the video was released, allowing fans to appreciate the stunning visuals in even greater detail.


Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is not only an iconic country love song, but also an ode to the end of a professional relationship with her mentor, Porter Wagoner.

The song’s touching lyrics convey the message that love and respect can persist even when relationships come to an end. The story behind the song’s creation adds a layer of depth to its meaning, as it was written during a difficult time in Parton’s career when she was making the decision to go solo.

Despite being widely interpreted as a romantic ballad, “I Will Always Love You” is a testament to the power of appreciation, gratitude, and the strength to move forward in life.

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