I met Kevin Costner by chance up in Vancouver. He said, “I’m doing this new project – would you be interested in doing the music for it?” And of course, I said yes. When we started working on The Bodyguard, Quincy Jones took me to lunch and said to me, “This is the most important project of your career.” I don’t know how he knew, but he was right.
The song was originally supposed to be “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” I tried to demo it twice, and I played it for Whitney both times, but my heart wasn’t in it. She was like, “Uh, I don’t know.” I called Kevin and said, “I think we should find another song.” The next day, he said, “What about ‘I Will Always Love You?'”
We recorded it live in Miami, because they wanted to film her singing. Whitney absolutely owned it. She’d always twist what I asked her to do, and most of the time she made it something I couldn’t have imagined. That was her magic. Her mom was there – I was standing out front, she had no idea who I was, and she leaned over and said, “You’re witnessing greatness right now. I hope you know that.” I said, “Yeah, I know.”
When we worked on “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” for her last album, it was kind of difficult. Every singer loses that high end at some point, and for Whitney it came early. It would be impossible for me to comment on whether her lifestyle contributed to that, but I know that when she would come in and rip her coat off and step up to the mic like a race horse, it’s very possible that she didn’t take care of her voice the way she should have. The voice is a muscle, and you’re always taught to go to the gym and warm up and stretch first before you lift hundred-pound weights. She was lifting hundred-pound weights right out of the gate, and probably did some damage to her voice. But Whitney really, really felt that lyric. You know, would it have been a better record if I had the Whitney from 1992? Yes, for sure. But like everything else she touched, she felt every single note of that song.
As told to Patrick Doyle