Movie Songs

The Story of… ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion from Titanic

May 7, 20246 Mins Read

Celine Dion‘s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ transcends its origins as the theme song for the iconic 1997 film Titanic, evolving into a timeless anthem of enduring love and loss.

This powerful ballad not only won the Academy Award for Best Original Song but also captured hearts worldwide, soaring to the top of the charts in multiple countries.

Celine’s emotive delivery and the song’s sweeping orchestral arrangement tapped into the universal themes of memory and longing, making it an unforgettable piece of pop culture.

Here, we delve into the song’s creation, impact, and lasting legacy.

  • Who wrote ‘My Heart Will Go On’?

    Songwriters Will Jennings (R) and James Horner (L)
    Songwriters Will Jennings (R) and James Horner (L).


    ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was composed by James Horner, with lyrics by Will Jennings, and produced by Horner, Walter Afanasieff and Simon Franglen.

    Prior to the release of Titanic, there were concerns among studio executives that the movie might not succeed commercially.

    Sony had invested $800,000 to acquire the rights to the soundtrack, hoping it would feature a theme song. However, the director, James Cameron, believed that concluding Titanic with a pop song would be unsuitable.

    Drawing inspiration from the 1979 track ‘The Flying Dutchman’ by the progressive rock band Jethro Tull, James Horner originally crafted the music for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ as an instrumental piece for the soundtrack.

    Aiming to create a vocal rendition for the end credits, he collaborated with lyricist Will Jennings, who penned the lyrics reflecting the perspective of an elderly individual reminiscing over many years.

    I wrote everything from the point of view of a person of a great age looking back so many years. It was the love story that made the film, of course. It was magnificently done with special effects, the actors were good. But the love story was what it was.

    – Will Jennings, Songfacts

    Horner apparently waited until Cameron was in a good mood before showing him the demo. After listening several times, Cameron approved it, but was concerned that he might get criticized for “going commercial at the end of the movie”.

    Producer Walter Afanasieff wasn’t impressed with the original demo, finding it meandering and dreary, but agreed to arrange and produce the studio version of the song. He then replaced every element of Horner’s demo, and was not happy that Horner was given a co-producer credit.

  • How did Celine Dion come to record it?

    Celine Dion Performs In Los Angeles in 1997
    Celine Dion Performs In Los Angeles in 1997.


    Originally, the song was meant for Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø. Simon Franglen, who was assisting Horner with electronic textures and synthesizers for the score, recommended Céline Dion, having previously collaborated with her on several hits.

    Initially, Dion was reluctant to record the song since she had already performed the film songs ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Because You Loved Me’. However, her husband and producer, René Angélil, persuaded her to record a demo.

    Music executive Tommy Mottola noted that Dion completed her vocal in a single take, and this demo was ultimately used in the film.

    Following the film’s success, Dion re-recorded the song for her album, making minor adjustments to a few notes towards the song’s conclusion.

  • What happens in the music video?

    Céline Dion – My Heart Will Go On (Official 25th Anniversary Alternate Music Video)

    The music video for ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ directed by Bille Woodruff, features Céline Dion singing at the ship’s bow, interspersed with clips from Titanic.

    The video was shot in Los Angeles against a green screen, with Titanic’s computer artists adding the backgrounds.

    On set, Dion performed a unique effect by singing an accelerated version of the song. In January 2018, a director’s cut of the video surfaced on YouTube, showcasing previously unreleased scenes, including Dion walking to the bow and seamlessly integrating her into the movie.

    In 2023, to mark the 25th anniversary of Dion’s rendition of the song at the 70th Academy Awards, a new music video was unveiled. This version includes alternative footage from the original video shoot, never seen before, and was upgraded from the original 35mm film to 4K resolution.

  • How did it perform in the charts and what awards did it win?

    Céline Dion — My Heart Will Go On (Live at The Oscars, 1998)

    ‘My Heart Will Go On’ ranks as one of the greatest radio hits and best-selling singles ever, with over 18 million copies sold globally. It was the top-selling single worldwide in 1998. As of March 2023, the song has accumulated 5 billion in cumulative radio audience and more than 728 million official streams in the United States.

    Interest in the song spiked again following the Titan submersible implosion, which reignited public interest in Titanic. Reports by TMZ noted an increase of over 500,000 streams, although this figure has been contested by other sources.

    In the United States, the song was released in limited quantities—658,000 copies—and still managed to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with sales of 360,000 copies, holding the position for two weeks.

    The song also dominated for ten weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay and for two weeks on the Hot 100 Singles Sales. In February 1998, it set a record for the largest radio audience at the time, attracting 117 million listeners. The song was certified gold and has sold a total of 1,791,000 copies in the U.S., including 1,133,000 digital units. In 2011, Dion sold 956,000 digital tracks in the U.S., with “My Heart Will Go On” being her most downloaded song at 163,000 downloads. As of November 2019, it had 588.2 million on-demand streams in the U.S.

    In the UK, the song debuted at number one with first-week sales of 234,000 copies. By February 2022, it had sold over 2.1 million units, making it Dion’s second million-selling single in Britain after ‘Think Twice’ in 1995 and the second-best-selling single of 1998, behind Cher’s ‘Believe’.

    In Germany, the song was certified 4× platinum, selling over two million copies. It sold 1.2 million copies in France, earning a Diamond certification. The song also achieved multiple platinum certifications across Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, and was certified Platinum in Greece and Gold in Austria. In Japan, it was released twice; the January 1998 release sold 205,300 copies and was certified 2× Platinum, while the June 1998 remix sold 111,920 copies and was certified Gold.

    Globally, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ had an extended run at the top of the charts, including 17 weeks on the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles, and maintained significant chart presence across Europe, North America, and Australasia.

    ‘My Heart Will Go On’ won numerous accolades from various prestigious award bodies worldwide. It clinched the 1998 Academy Award for Best Original Song and swept the 1999 Grammy Awards, securing Record of the Year—a first for a Canadian artist—Song of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.

    Additionally, the song won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1998. It was also a nominee for Best Song for a Movie at the 1998 MTV Movie Awards, although it did not win, losing to ‘Men in Black’ by Will Smith.

  • Who has covered it?

    Among the many cover versions of the song include:

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