In 1997, it seemed like the whole world was swept up in the fictional love story between Jack and Rose in Titanic. The epic film tugged hard on our heartstrings, and Céline Dion’s incredible vocals on the film’s theme song, “My Heart Will Go On,” kept our emotions soaring. It went on to win the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and it swept the Grammy Awards with Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. The song is arguably Dion’s most popular and recognizable tune to date — but she almost refused to sing it.
While speaking with Billboard 20 years after recording “My Heart Will Go On,” Dion was candid about her initial lack of interest in the song. She was still riding the high of her 1996 hit song, “Because You Love Me,” and from working with Disney for the theme to Beauty and the Beast. She also elaborated on how her “time of the month” made her less eager to belt out the song in a studio, telling Billboard in her characteristically broken English, “I was mad! I don’t feel good. I have belly pains. My girly days are starting to happen.” It took her husband, René Angélil (who sadly passed away in 2016), to convince the songstress to power through and record the demo in one take. Dion later admitted that he saved her from making a huge mistake: “I’m so glad that my husband said, ‘I really think that you should do that song.’”
Of course, she’s not the only one who’s happy her husband talked her into the song. Dion’s passionate voice obviously went on to convince James Cameron to include it as the movie’s main theme despite his own reservations. Billy Zane, one of the film’s stars, told Billboard about the moment he heard the song at the movie’s Los Angeles premiere: “People were reduced to jelly. The most stoic and stalwart pillars of the industry… They were beside themselves. When she hits the high note in, ‘near, far, wherever you are…’ — bam! The floodgates open.”
Dion still performs the song on a nightly basis during her Las Vegas residency, but remains hesitant even after all this time. “Every night, I’m like, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m not going to sing that song again,’” she explains. “And then that curtain opens and the smoke starts and people are crying.” It just goes to show how impossible it is for anyone to deny the emotional impact of this beloved song — even Dion herself.