Chart Beat Podcast: Clive Davis Reflects on Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You'

Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Whitney Houston and Clive Davis at a T.J. Martell benefit dinner for held for Davis in 1999.

The legendary executive remembers the song that topped the Hot 100 on this date 25 years ago.

Welcome to the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, where each week co-hosts Gary Trust and Trevor Anderson, from the Billboard charts department, discuss why what's on the charts … is on the charts, while also looking at current chart action in a historical context for even greater insights.

This week, in our latest Billboard Hot 100 flashback episode, we count down the chart's top 40 hits, from No. 40 to No. 1, exactly 25 years ago this week. At the time, music was transitioning from a core of traditional pop and hair band hits to burgeoning hip-hop and grunge, and the chart reflects that evolution, with songs from vets including Elton John, R.E.M., Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Madonna alongside then-up-and-comers Boyz II Men, TLC and Mary J. Blige. (Also in the mix: a generous portion of one-hit wonders sure to test your musical memory.)

Meanwhile, the biggest hit on the Hot 100 that week – and one of the top titles of the Hot 100's entire six-decade history – belonged to Whitney Houston: "I Will Always Love You." In honor of the ballad's anniversary, Gary and Trevor are honored to welcome Clive Davis to reminisce about its coronation and much more encompassing the Sony Music executive's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legacy.

Davis touches on a variety of topics from his career, starting with Houston's film debut in The Bodyguard, which generated "I Will Always Love You," plus the Hot 100 top 10s "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing." "I did not push her at all in that direction," Davis says. "She decided herself that she wanted to branch out into film. Honestly, I was apprehensive, [even though] she was a worldwide star. But she felt strongly about it."

As for the lengthy a cappella intro of Houston's signature hit, was Davis worried that it might be too atypical for radio? "Yes, there were several calls from radio to our promotion staff, advocating changing the beginning. But, frankly, this was a classic." The song went on to top the Hot 100 for 14 weeks in 1992-93, then a record.

Says Davis, "You've got to know the exception to the rule."

Davis further muses about his successes ranging from signing Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and Santana in the '60s and '70s to helping launch Houston's career in the '80s and Alicia Keys' in the 2000s, triumphs that helped his new documentary, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, debut atop iTunes' top 200 documentary tally and win the Critics' Choice Documentary Award for best music documentary.

Along with Davis' renowned business acumen, and his ability to revive veteran acts' careers, he's become iconic thanks, at his core, to a pure love of music. "I'm heartened when a record breaks that indicates … an artist," he says.

"Give us a unique artist, not just a hit record."

Enjoy the latest Chart Beat Podcast and check back for more upcoming episodes with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more. And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!

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