Dolly Parton reveals she used Whitney Houston song royalties to support a Black neighborhood

"So I just love the fact that I spent that money on a complex and I think, 'This is the house that Whitney built,' " Parton said.

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Whitney Houston‘s remake of “I Will Always Love You” is probably one of the most beloved songs of all time. Now Dolly Parton is opening up about how she took the royalty checks from the hit ballad and poured them back into the Black community.

Whiteny Houston and Dolly Parton,
Whiteny Houston and Dolly Parton (Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live, the prolific singer/songwriter answered a series of fun rapid-fire questions about her personal life and her legendary career in music.

But when Bravo host Andy Cohen asked Parton about the best thing she has ever spent her royalty earnings on from Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” the 75-year-old, who wrote the song back in 1973, surprised the studio audience with her response.

“I bought my big office complex down in Nashville. So I thought, ‘Well, this is a wonderful place to be,'” Parton said. “I bought a property down in what was the Black area of town, and it was mostly just Black families and people that lived around there. It was off the beaten path from 16th Avenue and I thought, ‘Well, I am gonna buy this place — the whole strip mall.’ And I thought, ‘This is the perfect place for me to be,’ considering it was Whitney.”

“I thought this was great — I’m just gonna be down here with her people, who are my people as well,” she continued. “So I just love the fact that I spent that money on a complex and I think, ‘This is the house that Whitney built.’ “

Based on a report from Forbes, throughout the 90s Parton made about $10 million in royalties from the Grammy-winning song that was originally written as a farewell to her former partner, Porter Wagoner. The country-music icon continues to earn money from the massive hit. 

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston during the 2004 World Music Awards on September 15, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

In 2020, Parton confessed to PEOPLE that she didn’t fully understand or appreciate the impact of her lyrics until she heard Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” on the radio. 

“You never know when you’re writing songs, how they’re going to turn out,” Parton recalled in September. “But after ‘I Will Always Love You’ became a worldwide thing [in 1992], it was in the movie [The] Bodyguard, and it was No. 1. I really felt my worth.”

“Whitney did such a fantastic job. And I thought, ‘Wow. I wrote that little song.’ That’s when I felt my worth as a songwriter. This is my gift and I’m going to do the best I can with it,” she recalled.

But during this week’s appearance, she did concede to Cohen that she still harbors a bit of regret that she didn’t get to perform the powerhouse balled with Houston before she died in 2012.

“I was never asked to perform that with Whitney. I wish that could have happened. I would’ve loved that but I don’t think I could’ve come up to [sing] with her, though — she would’ve outsung me on that one for sure,” she said.

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