Retrospective: Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”
Twenty years ago James Cameron found beauty in tragedy with Titanic. Upon its release, the timeless romance centered around the 1912 crash of the RMS Titanic became one of the best-selling movies of all time. The project set its stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s careers on steep upward trajectories and lives on as one of the most celebrated releases. It also gave birth to one of the most enduring soundtracks. And the jewel in the center of the collection is Celine Dion’s beloved “My Heart Will Go On.”
Written by James Horner and Will Jennings, the iconic song became the standard for the film’s doomed but star-crossed lovers. The duo composed the song before reaching out to Celine, who allegedly laid down her vocals in one take. After reportedly moving her audience in the studio to tears, Horner said he was able to convince Cameron to take on the track for the closing credits. Coming after a heartrending final scene, the passionate ballad provided a sense of closure for the couple as well as viewers.
Opening with the wistful notes of a penny whistle, “My Heart Will Go On” is an ethereal and hopeful release. “Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you. That is how I know you go on,” she delicately croons over twinkling keys on the track’s soulful opening lines. The Canadian siren kept her vocals feathery and light at first, only gradually building to a soaring crescendo on the final verse. “You’re here, there’s nothing I fear. And I know that my heart will go. We’ll stay forever this way; you are safe in my heart, and my heart will go on and on,” she assures her lover as the production closes out underneath her devoted declaration of love.
“My Heart Will Go On” became one of Celine’s defining singles. The track made an impressive debut at the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and swept up a slew of awards including the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Song and the 1999 Grammy for Record of the Year. However, although it was one of the biggest hits of the ’90s, Celine recently revealed she did not even want to record it.
In an interview with Billboard earlier this year, she revisited her experience with the song. She explained that after the massive success of 1996’s “Because You Loved Me” and her experiences with “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991 she was hesitant to take on another large project so soon. Rene Angelil, her husband and manager, promised that she would record a demo for the song, which she reluctantly agreed to.
“I thought, ‘sing the song, then get the heck out of there,'” she said. Little did she know then how large the track would become. “My Heart Will Go On’s” legacy lives on today. As Titanic celebrates its 20th anniversary, the single remains its beating heart and a reminder of all that was lost in the tragic story. This year she performed the enduring ballad at the Billboard Music Awards, and all these years later it still retains the magic from its first recording. Revisit the performance below.