The Greatest Love of All
|"Greatest Love of All"|
|Single by Whitney Houston|
|from the album Whitney Houston|
|Released||March 14, 1986|
|Format||CD single, Cassette single, 7" single, 12" single|
|Writer(s)||Michael Masser, Linda Creed|
|Whitney Houston singles chronology|
"The Greatest Love of All" is a song written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed and originally recorded by George Benson for the 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic The Greatest. (A live version by Benson appears on 1978's Weekend in L.A.) The song was later popularized by Whitney Houston. Creed wrote the lyrics in the midst of her struggle with breast cancer. The words describe her feelings about coping with great challenges that one must face in life, being strong during those challenges whether you succeed or fail, and passing that strength on to children to carry with them into their adult lives. Creed eventually succumbed to the disease in April 1986 at the age of 37; at the time her song was an international hit by Whitney Houston.
The song received critical acclaim and became a big hit, topping the charts in Australia, Canada and the US, while reaching the top 20 in most countries, including Italy, Sweden and UK. It remains her third biggest US hit, after "I Will Always Love You" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)". All three songs, in order of their former popularity, re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart, after Houston's death, debuting the same week at numbers 7, 35 and 41, respectively, giving Houston three posthumous chart hits.
Clive Davis, founder of Houston's label Arista Records, was initially against Houston recording the song for her debut studio album, Whitney Houston, but he eventually gave in after persuasion from Houston and Masser. It was released as the B-side to the single "You Give Good Love", a previous Top 5 hit by Houston. The song was eventually released as a single in its own right. The song, released in April 1986, was the seventh release from Houston's debut album, and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May of that year.
Houston's album version features a piano intro, while the single version begins with a keyboard intro. After the single became a success, it replaced the original album version on subsequent pressings of the album. However, the original version was restored for the 2010 Deluxe Anniversary Edition reissue of the album.
Music video 
Houston's music video was filmed at Harlem's Apollo Theater in New York City. In the video, she is a successful singer who is about to perform in front of an audience. She reminisces about the time when she was a child performing in a talent competition and receiving encouragement from her mother. The video features Houston's mother Cissy Houston playing herself, supporting a young Whitney.
Critical reception 
Many critics called the song the centerpiece of Houston's debut album. Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that "Houston sings it with a forceful directness that gives its message of self-worth an astounding resonance and conviction" and called the song a compelling assertion of spiritual devotion, black pride, and family loyalty, all at once. Don Shewey of Rolling Stone wrote that as the song builds, Houston "slowly pours on the soul, slips in some churchy phrasing, holds notes a little longer and shows off her glorious voice." However, some reviewers were more critical. Describing Houston's performance as "straight-faced", Armond White wrote that "[w]e had laughed at that song during the seventies as a mawkish ode to self-involvement, not dreaming it would ever be taken seriously. But last year we laughed again—nervously—because Houston seemed to be using it as a theme song for her own aggressive ambition."
Chart performance 
Benson's 1977 version was an R&B hit, reaching #2 on the R&B chart. It was a moderate pop hit, making the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Houston's version reached number one on the Hot 100 chart for three weeks in 1986. The single was the fourth hit (and third #1) from her debut album. To date, this song was her second longest stay atop this chart, behind 1992's "I Will Always Love You." The song also reached number one on both component charts, the Hot 100 Singles Sales and the Hot 100 Airplay, her second consecutive release to do so, and stayed for 14 weeks inside the top 40. On other Billboard charts, Houston also performed well, reaching number three on the R&B chart. The song topped the adult contemporary chart for five weeks, Houston's longest stay at the top of that chart at the time. The song ranked No. 11 on Billboard's year end pop singles chart. Houston's single fared well globally as well, reaching No. 8 in the United Kingdom and the top ten or No. 1 in several other European countries. It became her first No. 1 single in Australia. After her death, the single returned to the Billboard Hot 100, debuting at number 41. The song has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
In April 1987, Gordon Lightfoot filed a lawsuit against Michael Masser, alleging that Masser's song "The Greatest Love of All" stole twenty-four bars from Lightfoot's 1969 hit "If You Could Read My Mind." According to Maclean's, Lightfoot commented, "It really rubbed me the wrong way. I don't want the present-day generation to think that I stole my song from him."
In popular culture 
In the 1988 film Coming to America, Randy Watson (portrayed by Eddie Murphy) performs a terrible rendition of the song at the "Miss Black Awareness Pageant." An unenthusiastic audience prompts him to walk offstage in a huff.
In the 1989 film Say Anything..., Joe (played by Loren Dean) performs a poor rendition of the song at his high school graduation, that is received warmly by Corey (played by Lili Taylor) in the audience, immediately before Diane Court (played by Ione Skye) gives her valedictorian speech.
In the Philippines, the song is also used as a commercial jingle for Anchor Milk.
In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis and Dee sing this song with their biological father at the Juvenile Lupus Association in the episode "Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad".
In Bret Easton Ellis' novel American Psycho, yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman gives a long critique of Whitney Houston's career. In the 2000 film adaptation starring Christian Bale, Bateman gives an abridged version of the critique to two women making out on his couch, shortly before he has sex with them and murders them. Since the filmmakers were not able to obtain the rights to the song, an instrumental, easy-listening version plays in the background during the scene.
The song's lyrics are featured in the film School of Rock. When asked for his opinion about testing from his fellow teachers, Dewey Finn (played by Jack Black) answers the question by saying the lyrics "I believe that the children are the future. Now listen, you can teach them, but buddy, you have got to let them lead the way. Let the children's laughter...just remind us how we used to be. That's what I decided...long ago". One of the teachers asks if it is from a song, but Dewey denies it.
In One on One, Flex sang the song on TV during the election day episode "Rock the Vote" that first aired in October 2004.
In Shrek Forever After, Donkey and Shrek are captured by two witches, who sing the song with Donkey.
Track listing 
- US vinyl/7"/Single
- A "Greatest Love of All" – 4:51
- B "Thinking About You" – 4:06
- Writer – Michael Masser, Linda Creed
- Producer – Michael Masser
- Arranger – Gene Page, Jr.
- The players – Robbie Buchanan, Nathan East, Dann Huff, Paul Jackson, Jr., Randy Kerber, Richard Marx, Lou Shelton, Debbie Thomas, Julia Waters, Maxine Waters, Oren Waters, John Robinson
- Mixer – Bill Schnee
- Engineers – Michael Mancini, Russell Schmitt
Charts and certifications 
Chart positions 
Year-end charts 
Chart procession and succession 
"Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" by Samantha Fox
|Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart number-one single
July 14, 1986 (1-week)
"Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" by Samantha Fox
Overjoyed by Stevie Wonder
|Billboard Adult Contemporary Singles number-one single
April 26, 1986 (5 weeks)
"Live to Tell" by Madonna
West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys
|Billboard Hot 100 number one single
May 17, 1986 – May 31, 1986
"Live to Tell" by Madonna
|Canadian RPM number-one single
June 7, 1986
"A Different Corner" by George Michael
See also 
- List of number-one singles in Australia
- List of RPM number-one singles of 1986
- List of Hot 100 number-one singles of 1986 (U.S.)
- List of number-one adult contemporary singles of 1986 (U.S.)
- Whitney Houston's Biggest Billboard Hits: A Look at Her Legendary Chart Career
- Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 636.
- Holden, Stephen. "Whitney Houston – Pop's New Queen". NY Times. March 18, 1986. Pg A18.
- Shewey, Don. "Whitney Houston Album Review". Rolling Stone Magazine.
- White, A. "To Be Young, Gifted and Wack." The City Sun, July 8, 1987. Reprinted in The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World, 69. Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 1995.
- Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits (Billboard Publications), page 306.
- Top 20 Pop Singles for 1986. Newsday. December 28, 1986. Pg 19.
- "Whitney Houston Returns to Hot 100's Top 10 With 'I Will Always Love You'". Billboard. February 15, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2012.
- "Gordon Lightfoot – Biography".
- ""Greatest Love of All" on the Australian Singles Chart". Kent Music Report.
- "Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Hung Medien.
- "Whitney Houston Album & Song Chart History" Canadian Hot 100 for Whitney Houston. Prometheus Global Media.
- Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin: Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972. Finland: Otava. p. 161. ISBN 951-1-21053-X.
- "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Whitney Houston search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Stichting Nederlandse Top 40.
- "Charts.org.nz – Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All". Top 40 Singles. Hung Medien.
- "Swedishcharts.com – Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All". Singles Top 60. Hung Medien.
- "Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart. Hung Medien.
- "17, 1986/ Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Whitney Houston Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Whitney Houston. Prometheus Global Media.
- "Whitney Houston Album & Song Chart History" Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Whitney Houston. Prometheus Global Media.
- "Whitney Houston Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs for Whitney Houston. Prometheus Global Media.
- "South Korea Gaon International Chart (Week: February 12, 2012 to February 18, 2012)". Gaon Chart. January 5, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2013.