The Greatest Love of All

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This article is about the popular song. For the Singaporean TV series, see The Greatest Love of All (TV series). For the Brazilian film, see The Greatest Love of All (film).
"The Greatest Love of All"
Single by George Benson
from the album The Greatest Soundtrack
B-side "Ali's Theme" (Michael Masser)
Released June 1977
Format 7" single
Recorded 1977
Genre Smooth jazz, R&B, Soul music
Length 5:32 (Album full version)
3:29 (Single version)
Label Arista
Writer(s) Michael Masser, Linda Creed
Producer(s) Michael Masser
George Benson singles chronology
"Valdez in the Country" / "Gonna Love You More"
"The Greatest Love of All"
"On Broadway"

"The Greatest Love of All" is a song written by composers Michael Masser (music) and Linda Creed (lyrics). It was originally recorded in 1977 by American singer and guitarist George Benson, who made the song a substantial hit that year. The song is perhaps even more well-known for a later version by Whitney Houston, whose 1985 cover (with the slightly amended title "Greatest Love of All") eventually topped the charts in Australia, Canada and the U.S. in 1986.


"The Greatest Love of All" was written as the main theme of the 1977 film "The Greatest", a biopic of Muhammad Ali. Michael Masser wrote the music; he was later accused by Gordon Lightfoot of plagiarizing 24 bars of his 1971 hit "If You Could Read My Mind". (Specifically, the part of the song that begins "I decided long ago..." bears a marked compositional similarity to Lightfoot's passage in "If You Could Read My Mind" that begins "I never thought I could feel this way...") Lightfoot eventually dropped the suit out of respect for singer Whitney Houston.

Linda Creed wrote the lyrics in the midst of her struggle with breast cancer. The title "The Greatest Love of All" refers to one's love for oneself. Nine years later after the song was written, Creed ended up being the victim of cancer and died on April 10, 1986 at the age of 37.

George Benson version (1977)[edit]

"The Greatest Love of All" was originally recorded and released as a single by George Benson in 1977, becoming a substantial hit, peaking at #2 on the R&B chart - the first R&B Top Ten hit for Arista Records - , #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #27 on the UK chart. The song became one of Benson's most successful releases, and, for this reason, one of the numerous collections of George Benson hits is called "The Greatest Hits of All".

The track listing of the George Benson's original single:

Year Side Song Length Interpreter Writer/composer Producer Arrangers
1977 A-side "The Greatest Love of All" 3:29
(Edit single)
George Benson Michael Masser,
Linda Creed
Michael Masser Lee Holdridge,
Michael Masser
1977 B-side "Ali's Theme" 5:18 Michael Masser Michael Masser Michael Masser Lee Holdridge,
Michael Masser

Whitney Houston version (1985)[edit]

"Greatest Love of All"
Single by Whitney Houston
from the album Whitney Houston
B-side "Thinking About You"
Released March 18, 1986
Format CD single, cassette single, 7-inch single, 12" single
Recorded December 1984
Genre Soul, R&B
Length 4:48
Label Arista
Writer(s) Michael Masser, Linda Creed
Producer(s) Michael Masser
Whitney Houston singles chronology
"How Will I Know"
"Greatest Love of All"
"I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
Whitney Houston track listing
"Take Good Care of My Heart"
"Greatest Love of All"
"Hold Me"
Music video
"Greatest Love of All" on YouTube

The song was further popularized by Whitney Houston under the title "Greatest Love of All". The song was recorded by the American recording artist for her debut album, self-titled Whitney Houston, which was released in February 1985, by Arista Records. The song became a major 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)".[1] 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.[citation needed]

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 March 18, 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.[2]

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.

Her live performance in 1990 in the 15th anniversary of Arista Records concert in Radio City Music Hall was included in the 25th anniversary deluxe edition of Whitney Houston and the 2014 CD/DVD release, Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances.[3]

Music video[edit]

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.[citation needed]


Critical reception[edit]

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.[4] 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."[5] 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."[6]

Chart performance[edit]

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.[7] 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.[7] The song ranked No. 11 on Billboard's year end pop singles chart.[8] 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.[9] The song has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.


Houston won the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Video, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Record of the Year and a Soul Train Music Award for Single of the Year.[citation needed]


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 1970 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."[10] Lightfoot has stated that he dropped the suit when he felt it was having a negative effect on Whitney Houston, as the suit was about Masser and not her.[11]

Track listing[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Chart procession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
"Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" by Samantha Fox
Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart number-one single
July 14, 1986 (1-week)
Succeeded by
"Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" by Samantha Fox
Preceded by
"Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder
Billboard Adult Contemporary Singles number-one single
April 26, 1986 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Live to Tell" by Madonna
Preceded by
"West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
May 17, 1986 – May 31, 1986
Preceded by
"Live to Tell" by Madonna
Canadian RPM number-one single
June 7, 1986
Succeeded by
"A Different Corner" by George Michael

Other versions[edit]

In addition to the original version by George Benson, the soundtrack of "The Greatest" also brought the first cover of "The Greatest Love of All", performed by its author Michael Masser.

The song was covered in 1979 by Shirley Bassey, for her album "The Magic Is You".

In 2008, British singers Duncan James (from Blue and Rachel Stevens (from S Club 7) performed a charity sponsored cover for "Children of Fight for Life".

Big Daddy issued a unique doo-wop version of the song on their 1991 album Cutting Their Own Groove.

Céline Dion sang the song several times over the years in honor of Whitney Houston. The most recent performance was in 2012 after the death of Whitney Houston for the Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston entitled: "We Will Always Love You" along a piece of Saving All My Love For You sung at the beginning of the performance of Greatest Love Of All.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whitney Houston's Biggest Billboard Hits: A Look at Her Legendary Chart Career
  2. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 636.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Whitney Houston – Pop's New Queen". NY Times. March 18, 1986. Pg A18.
  5. ^ Shewey, Don. "Whitney Houston Album Review". Rolling Stone Magazine.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits (Billboard Publications), page 306.
  8. ^ Top 20 Pop Singles for 1986. Newsday. December 28, 1986. Pg 19.
  9. ^ "Whitney Houston Returns to Hot 100's Top 10 With 'I Will Always Love You'". Billboard. February 15, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Gordon Lightfoot – Biography". 
  11. ^ Wake, Matt. "Gordon Lightfoot on Elvis, Dylan covering his songs, not suing Whitney over 'The Greatest Love of All'". Retrieved July 26, 2015. 
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). Sydney: Australian Chart Book. p. 143. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.  N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between 1983 and June 26, 1988.
  13. ^ " – Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  14. ^ "Whitney Houston – Chart history" Canadian Hot 100 for Whitney Houston.
  15. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin: Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972. Finland: Otava. p. 161. ISBN 951-1-21053-X. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ " – Houston, Whitney Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  19. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Whitney Houston search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  20. ^ a b " – Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All". Top 40 Singles.
  21. ^ " – Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All". Singles Top 100.
  22. ^ a b " – Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All". Swiss Singles Chart.
  23. ^ "17, 1986/ Archive Chart: May 17, 1986" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  24. ^ "Whitney Houston – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Whitney Houston.
  25. ^ "Whitney Houston – Chart history" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Whitney Houston.
  26. ^ "Whitney Houston – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Whitney Houston.
  27. ^ "ARIA Charts: The ARIA Report week commencing 20 February 2012 – Issue #1147" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association Ltd. Retrieved 2015-09-19. 
  28. ^ " – Whitney Houston – Greatest Love of All" (in French). Les classement single.
  29. ^
  30. ^ "South Korea Gaon International Chart (Week: February 12, 2012 to February 18, 2012)". Gaon Chart. January 5, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ ""My Love Is Your Love" single; triple platinum worldwide". Billboard. November 20, 1999. Retrieved September 25, 2010. 

External links[edit]