Learn How Dollywood is Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of ‘I Will Always Love You’

photo courtesy of The Dollywood Company

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, a monumental song, and in celebration of Parton’s iconic status as a songwriter, Dollywood, her legendary theme park in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, is kicking off its 2023 operating season with an I Will Always Love You Celebration that will run from March 11 through April 8.

On the surface, “I Will Always Love You” seems to be a romantic piece … but it wasn’t written about being lovelorn. Instead, it was Parton’s unique version of a resignation letter. She had starred on “The Porter Wagoner Show” with her mentor for several years but was ready to pursue a solo career. Wagoner didn’t like the idea of Parton leaving the show, and the two just couldn’t see eye-to-eye on the matter. Parton decided to tell Wagoner how she felt in the best way she knew how: with a song. She wrote the piece in one night back in 1973 – trying to convey how much she appreciated all he had done for her, but that it was time for her to move on – and sang it to him the next day. As the story goes, it was the song that made her business partner finally HEAR what Parton was feeling … and he agreed that she could leave the show, provided that he got to produce her record. The song was recorded in June 1973 and officially released on her “Jolene” album the following year.

The song is simply beautiful … and maybe a little magical, too. It hit Number 1 for Parton two different times, once upon its initial release and again in 1982, when it was part of the movie soundtrack for “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” In the 50 years since it was written, “I Will Always Love You” has been sung by countless performers spanning a variety of genres and generations. It demonstrates the impact a single song can have on an entire world.

You know Parton as a singer, but at her very core she’s a songwriter and a storyteller – in fact, she calls herself a “Songteller.” To celebrate the power of telling stories through song, Dollywood has invited several musical guests to perform at DP’s Celebrity Theater each Saturday during the festival. The Celebrity Concert Series includes Natalie Grant (March 11); Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (March 18); Jo Dee Messina (March 25); Larry, Steve & Rudy: The Gatlin Brothers (April 1); and Lauren Alaina (April 8). All concerts are included with park admission.

Park guests can also hear from the people behind the songs during the “Showstreet Songwriting Showcase,” which will take place each day of the event. Each showcase will feature multiple songwriters, and some of those scheduled to perform include Dana Black, who wrote George Strait’s “Check Yes or No” and “Write This Down”; Billy Montana, who wrote Sara Evans’ “Suds in the Bucket”; Steve Dean, who wrote “Walk On” for Reba McEntire; and many more.

In true Parton style, Showstreet will be decked out with dazzling décor … including a glittering display of pink sequins shimmering above the walkways. Signature foods and merchandise will also be available during this one-time-only event.

The I Will Always Love You Celebration is unique to the 2023 season. For more details and to begin planning a visit, check out Dollywood.com.

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