The Awful Truth About the Song, “The Greatest Love of All”


The very popular song, “The Greatest Love of All,” was originally written for George Benson in the late 70s by Michael Masser and Linda Creed. Benson’s performance of Masser and Creed’s song was first included in the movie, The Greatest. A movie starring Muhammed Ali as himself — if you can imagine how difficult that must have been. You know, being great already at punching people’s faces, and then portraying yourself as the greatest.

The song’s core meaning was driven by one of the composer’s battle with breast cancer in the late 70s.  It peaked pretty well for Benson in 1977 (#2 on the R&B billboard Charts), but it took a young Whitney Houston to cover the song on her debut record.

It became an international hit that launched the young Houston into pop stardom and endless parties, accolades, etc.  She would go on to star in a reality TV show with ex-husband Bobby Brown for a short time before planning a comeback for most of the 2000s. Houston eventually died in February 2012 from a drug overdose.

The song’s original co-composer, Linda Creed, died in 1986 after succumbing to years of battling cancer.  Note that this is the same year Houston recorded the song. Sad karma surrounding this song didn’t stop there.

Gordon Lightfoot, a critically acclaimed Canadian songwriter who wrote songs for Johnny Cash, Elvis and so many more— and had a few radio hits himself— filed a lawsuit against the song’s composer(s) in 1987 claiming that Masser stole 24 bars from Lightfoot’s 1969 hit, If You could Read My Mind.

It really rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t want the present-day generation to think that I stole my song from him,” claimed Lightfoot.

Take a listen to Lightfoot’s version below. It’s pretty obvious to spot the 24 bars that Lightfoot’s lawsuit was based on.

Many people have associated the song with love, children, making them, spreading the love. However, the song’s popularity revealed deep layers of sadness soaked in cancer battles, composition thievery, and cold, hard true facts about a pathetic love song that millions of people everywhere love for all the wrong reasons.

We’re with you, Mr. Lightfoot.  Why would you want anyone to think you’re associated at all with Masser and Creed’s song?  It’s a song that starts off hopefully with those famous words:

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way 

And leads to the self-defeated, pathetic chorus with:

I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me 

Me, me, me. Congratulations to millions of people who think this song is about making more children.
The Greatest Love of All is one of pop music’s greatest turds that no one can seem to flush away for good, forever, bye bye and pet those puppies. So fed up with most of you.  Fucking amateurs— ponies!

Andy Whorehall

words © 2012

The Awful Truth About the Song, "The Greatest Love of All"Andy Whorehall

9 comments on "The Awful Truth About the Song, “The Greatest Love of ..."

  1. Kino Metropolis on

    Fascinating, Andy! I never knew the truth and I am a better evil person now that I have one more music trivia nugget in my arsenal that I can use to embarrass tight jean short wearing, sensitive artist types with feathered hipster hair who gallantly reference Can’s Tago Mago at will at my local record store in order to score some street cred. I win! Thanks!

    • Kino,
      You are very welcome. Music street cred is overrated, isn’t it? Go straight for the gold when asked what you’re into these days— to end conversations out of the gate: Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and the Cougar, John that is.
      Pause to enjoy the reaction, they won’t believe you no matter how serious you are. HYSTERIA, RECKLESS, and SCARECROW are 80s masterpieces.


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  4. Elaine WHite on

    I totally disagree with Andy Whorehall’s assessment of the lyrics of “The greatest love of all”. First the chorus of the song is ” I found the greatest love of all is happening to me, I found the greatest love of all inside of me” not “I never found anyone to fulfill my needs, lonely place to be so I learned to depend on me”. You neglected to include the lyrics that come before that line ” Everybody looking for a hero, People need someone to look up to, (and then) I never found anyone to fulfill my needs, a lonely place to be so I learned to depend on me” Hence “I found the greatest love all happening to me, I found the greatest love inside of me”….. What I take from the song is, teaching children that they are special loved and to be themselves and discovering the love they have inside (God) thus learning to love themselves. The battle with cancer, or the lawsuit doesn’t make this song any less applicable to the reason it was written: (For the movie “The Greatest”) If you know Muhammad Ali’s story, the lyrics fit. And so my friend this song is definitely not a TURD, it’s a classic and an inspiration to many, and that’s irregardless of who sings it!! How can you say that anyone loves any song for all the wrong reasons, I think your’re making assumptions for all the wrong reasons. Just my opinion, just as your’s is, and you know what they say about opinions…

  5. Ok so I grew up listening to Whitney and recently found Gordon Lightfooot and every time I listen to this song
    I think to myself boy this sure sounds like Whitney Houston
    Just a certain part in the song
    So I googled it and found your post

  6. Patricia Logan on

    I think the irony of Whitney Houston singing that song and then allowing Bobby Brown to “be her hero” and abandoning the gifts she was endowed with is the actual message. To salvage what is valuable in this song we have to look to George Benson as well as Muhammad Ali.

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