About The Song

This was written by songwriters Linda Creed and Michael Masser. Creed was recovering from breast cancer when they wrote the song in 1977. Originally recorded by George Benson, his version went to #24 in the US. In 1985, the song was revived by Whitney Houston, and on May 17, 1986, it went to #1 for the first of three weeks.
Creed didn’t live to see it top the chart; cancer claimed her life on April 10, 1986. She was later inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on the strength of this song and the many hits she co-wrote for The Spinners, The Stylistics, and other acts on the Philadelphia International label. Phil Hurtt, who also wrote for the label, told Songfacts, “There are thousands of ways to say ‘I Love You,’ and the difficulty is trying to find a nuance, a new way to say what’s been said thousands of times, and Linda Creed is someone who was able to do that.”
Masser and Creed wrote this for the 1977 film biography of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest. The song first appeared on the film’s soundtrack recorded by George Benson. Ali played himself in the movie, essentially recreating his defining moments intercut with clips of his actual fights. Ali was the heavyweight champ at the time of the film’s release.
The lyric is quite sincere. Linda Creed drew inspiration from her family; she married Stephen Lee Epstein in 1972 and had their first daughter in 1976 (they had another in 1980). Lines like “I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way” express her hopeful spirit. Her songs almost always expressed her true self; an exception is “Ghetto Child,” one of the hits she wrote for The Spinners.