“I decided that the only thing that could culminate this film was something that [brings together] all the emotions,” Titanic composer James Horner told then-Billboard radio editor Chuck Taylor in 1998.
“I wanted to write a song that would allow a contemporary legitimacy, so that it wouldn’t be just a period piece,” Horner mused.
On the Billboard Hot 100 dated Feb. 28, 1998, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” which Horner completed writing with Will Jennings to close the 1912 (and 1997)-set Titanic, crowned the Hot 100. It debuted at No. 1 as it spent its fifth week atop the Radio Songs chart and arrived as the week’s best-selling song, newly released as a limited-edition stand-alone single.
On the Billboard 200, the Titanic soundtrack, featuring the ballad, scored its sixth week at No. 1, of 16 total weeks on top.
The Oral History of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’: Controversies, Doubts & ‘Belly Pains’ In…
Notably, James Cameron, who solely wrote and directed Titanic, had originally forbidden that the film’s end-credits song include vocals. Horner, however, ultimately decided that he wanted a song to contrast the movie’s orchestral arrangements. As for the vocalist, “I needed an opera singer more than pop singer to bring all the emotional qualities I wanted,” Horner told Billboard. “For me, the only person that could do that was Celine. It was casting more than it was trying to find a superstar to sing it.”
Taylor’s story (which ran the week that “Heart” hit No. 1 on the Hot 100) continued tracing the steps that the song took to its lasting legacy: Horner surreptitiously met with Dion and her husband René Angélil, as he had long known the couple, and played a demo. Impressed, Dion likewise fell for Titanic following a private screening, taken by the film’s love story.
Five weeks later, she recorded it. “It was just electrifying,” Horner recalled. “She was singing like her life depended on it.”
Horner finally took the song to Cameron. “I was waiting for an especially good mood,” Horner said. “On one occasion, he was really excited about a special effect that had just been completed. I was sweating, but I played it.” Cameron’s reaction? “He couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘Aren’t those your themes?’ This is Celine Dion. How did you do this?’ He did love it.”
How did the rest of the Hot 100’s top 10 stack up the week that Dion hit No. 1 on the Feb. 28, 1998, chart? Count down the tally’s top tier that week below, along with a look at more honors that “Heart” has since achieved.
This year’s Beale Street Music Festival will feature sets from The Lumineers, Greta Van Fleet, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Earth, Wind & Fire, Hardy, Jazmine Sullivan, The Roots, AJR and 311. The event at Tom Lee Park in Memphis, Tennessee on May 5-7 will also feature appearances from GloRilla, Gary Clark Jr., Ziggy Marley, Young the Giant, Halestorm, Live, PJ Morton, The Struts, Gov’t Mule, Dru Hill, Mike., Andy […]
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