What is the meaning of the song "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parton suggested that the song was written in the wake of a separation with another.  At the time of writing, Parton was enduring a separation from her business partner and mentor, Bob Ferguson.  One gets the impression of the depth of a relationship of this magnitude in the lyrics.  The title and refrain bring to light the idea that even if conditions and contexts prevent two people from being together, the speaker will always carry the love as a force of transcendence within them.  The hope of life "treating you kind" helps to bring out that the separation experienced is going to be of a permanent state.  The sadness of such a condition, but the understanding of it being unavoidable is what marks the song's message.  In the end, the meaning of this is one where one recognizes that while a relationship has ended, artificially severing the feelings experienced is not appropriate nor does honor to what was there.  In the end, regardless of what happens in a relationship, validating and experiencing the feelings that were valid can be the only way one can find the strength for the pain that is to be experienced.