Watch: Kelly Clarkson, Dolly Parton Sing “I Will Always Love You”

Kelly Clarkson was joined by Dolly Parton for a cover version of “9 to 5” for her Kellyoke segment, kicking off The Kelly Clarkson Show on December 1. The performance comes three months after the two collaborated on a duet of the 1980 Parton-penned song for the documentary Still Working 9 to 5, which premiered on September 16.

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Long after their performance, Parton sat down with Clarkson as her guest for the hour-long show. The pair talked about the first time the country legend heard Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard version of her 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You.”

“I was just driving along, I had the radio on and I heard this,” recalled Parton. “I just freaked out. I had to pull over to the side because I honestly thought that I was gonna wreck. It was the most overwhelming feeling, and you know how great that was.”

Parton also reminisced about how a different song was first considered for the film’s theme song before another artist released it. Bodyguard actor Kevin Costner, who also produced the 1992 film, called her up to ask if they could use “I Will Always Love You” in the movie.  

“I didn’t hear anything else about it,” shared Parton. “I didn’t know if they had it. I didn’t know if they had done it.”

Parton then went on to praise Clarkson’s own rendition of the song at the ACM Awards in March 2022. “I’ve been meaning to tell you,” said Parton, “that whole crowd, Whitney, she would’ve been so proud of you. You absolutely killed it, seriously. It was incredible.”

Urged by the audience to sing the song, Clarkson declined. Parton then said she would sing if the show host harmonized, and the two sang an unrehearsed portion of the song together.

“Your breaks in your voice are so magical,” Clarkson told Parton. “You’re like a magical fairy human.”

Throughout the hour-long interview, Parton was also surprised by three special guests who benefitted directly from her philanthropy, including a young girl who learned to read braille before her schoolmates using books she received through Parton’s Imagination Library program, which provides books to children from age 0 to 5 nationwide. Other guests included a musician who was able to study music in college after receiving a Dolly Parton scholarship and a doctor who worked on one of the vaccines Parton financially backed around the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

Parton also shared some early memories of growing up in Pittman Center, Tennessee. She discussed how her Uncle Louis gave her a guitar and her Uncle Bill (Owens), who was a co-writer with the singer during the early days of her career, taught her how to play and supported her early aspirations.

“From the time of 7 years old, I was playing and singing, and my Uncle Bill just saw that I was serious about it,” shared Parton. “He thought I was pretty good at it, so he would take me around all the local TV shows and things. He also played guitar. He’s the one that saw it, and felt it and believed in my dream. I wanted to go sail away … and just be in country music.”

Clarkson added, “Way to go Uncle Bill.”

Photos: Weiss Eubanks / NBCUniversal

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