Priscilla driving out of Graceland in 'Priscilla.'

‘Priscilla’s Fantastic Closing Song Choice Gets Even Better With More Context

Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla undertook the weighty task of creating a film about Priscilla Presley’s marriage to Elvis without using any of his discography. It didn’t just succeed, but it resulted in one of the best film outros in recent memory.

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Based on the 1985 memoir Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley and Sandra Harmon, Priscilla is framed by her life with Elvis. This begins the moment Priscilla meets Elvis in 1959, when she was just age 14 and he 24. The film follows their disturbing relationship through their separation in 1972, stopping short of their 1974 divorce.

So, the soundtrack and scoring didn’t need to just capture the story of a marriage at its highs and lows. It also needed to capture this through the eyes of someone that began as a child groomed by a pop idol and into her life as a woman. Like Coppola’s other historical biography centered around a young woman in a troubling marriage to a wealthy and much older man (Marie Antoinette), this movie used lots of anachronistic songs, the best of which came at the end.

***Spoilers ahead for Priscilla.***

The final shot of the film shows Priscilla making the decision to leave Elvis and his estate, Graceland, forever. She’s driving up to the property’s gate and beginning her life without him, on her terms, after spending much of their marriage away from him. Here, the original “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton plays, marking an end to their lives as it was. While I prefer Whitney Houston’s iconic take, the choice of Dolly’s version of the song was perfect for this. The original is quiet and bittersweet, and the history behind the song makes it even better.

Priscilla and “I Will Always Love You”

Not only did Elvis almost record this song, but it also marked the end of several relationships. Drunk History tells it best, but essentially, the song marked the end of Dolly’s business relationship with Porter Wagoner. After mentoring Dolly and performing on 13 albums with her, Wagoner wasn’t keen on her interest in going solo. However, the success of Dolly’s “Jolene” proved there was an audience for it. Dolly wrote “I Will Always Love You” for Wagoner and then went solo. She worked for Wagoner from the age of 21 until her late 20s.

When Elvis heard the song, he wanted to record it, too. Dolly told AXS TV and others the day before Elvis was set to record it she got a call from his infamous manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Parker pushed for publishing rights and over half of the money. So early in her solo career, Dolly refused. However, this song still remains a part of Elvis’ history. Priscilla told Dolly he sang the tune to her on the steps of the courthouse when they finalized their divorce in October 1974. Born a year apart, Priscilla and Dolly made massive leaps towards independence around the same time.


Dolly Parton reveals why Elvis never recorded a cover of “I Will Always Love You” ? Listen to When Sally Met Dolly on BBC Sounds, just search for Claudia Winkleman’s show. ? #dollyparton #elvis #dolly #elvispresley #sallytraffic #bbcradio2 #radio #interview

♬ original sound – BBC Radio 2

Music supervisor Randall Poster notes Priscilla’s memoir mentioning this, too. The band Phoenix (whose lead singer, Thomas Mars, is Coppola’s spouse) composed the original music and led music selection. Mars told GQ they were willing to put all the music budget into getting this song for the last scene. The value and licensing of the song is probably why it didn’t make it to the film’s soundtrack. Still, it was the perfect choice for the film. I can’t imagine anything better.

(featured image: A24)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.