Seventeen years after it was first released, “My Heart Will Go On” remains one of the biggest theme songs in movie history. But the romantic ballad from Titanic nearly slammed into an iceberg of its own en route to the top of the pop charts.
Oscar-winning composer James Horner, who died Monday in a plane crash in California at the age of 61, famously composed the song in secret, after director James Cameron initially balked at the idea of including a pop tune in his maritime blockbuster.
“[James] did not want it to be a Hollywood movie that had violins soaring away around it and a song pasted in at the end,” Horner told Empire magazine earlier this year.
“But when you see the last scene of the movie, my job is to keep the audience in their seats and not let them off the hook,” he added. “It’s my personal belief I should never let anyone put their coats on. They have to be as in it as they can be. As I started writing this eight-minute sequence, I was saying, ‘How am I going to do this? Just another orchestra reprise?’ It had to be very intimate, very emotional.”
In what has since become a heralded snippet of cinema lore, Horner – working with lyricist Will Jennings – decided to take the film’s most memorable musical strain and commit words to it. The song ultimately came together in a vivid burst of creativity in the spring of 1997, just as Horner was wrapping up the orchestral tapestry that would eventually become the film’s soundtrack.
Finding a voice for the melody proved to be a no-brainer for Horner. “For me, the only person that could do it was Céline [Dion],” he once told Billboard.
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