Horner then wanted to make a full vocal song out of it, for use in the end credits of the film. Director James Cameron did not want such a song, but Will Jennings went ahead anyway and wrote the lyrics. When Dion originally heard the song, she did not want to record it. Horner showed the piano sketch to Simon Franglen, who was working with him on electronic textures and synthesizers for the film score. Franglen had worked with Celine Dion for several years on many of her major hits to date. He programmed and arranged an extensive demo to take to Dion. Her manager and husband René Angélil convinced her to sing on this demo version, which was something she hadn't done for many years. Horner waited until Cameron was in an appropriate mood before presenting him with the song. After playing it several times, Cameron declared his approval, although worried that he might be criticised for "going commercial at the end of the movie." Cameron also wanted to appease anxious studio executives and "saw that a hit song from his movie could only be a positive factor in guaranteeing its completion." The original Horner/Franglen produced version of the ballad appears on the Titanic soundtrack and has an extended ending with longer, segmented vocalizations by Dion. Franglen mixed the final film and soundtrack version, expanding on the demo and adding orchestra to the final chorus. The single also played over the ending credits of the film. When the single was to be released to radio, it was produced further by Walter Afanasieff who added string and electric guitar, as well as rearranged portions of the song. This version appears on the 4-track maxi single as well as on Dion's album, Let's Talk About Love. In the Let's Talk about Love album booklet, the lyrics of the song contain an additional line between a second chorus and the final verse. The words, "There is some love that will not go away", are not performed by Dion in any available version of the song, however, they are still included on Dion's official site.
The music video was directed by Bille Woodruff and released at the end of 1997. It was included later on the All the Way… A Decade of Song & Video DVD. In addition to Dion's Let's Talk About Love and the Titanic soundtrack, "My Heart Will Go On" appears on several other albums, including Au cœur du stade, All the Way… A Decade of Song, A New Day... Live in Las Vegas, Complete Best, My Love: Essential Collection, and Taking Chances World Tour: The Concert. It was also included on the following DVDs: Au cœur du stade, All the Way… A Decade of Song & Video and Live in Las Vegas - A New Day....
At the height of the song's popularity, some radio stations in the US and the UK played an edited version of the song, that had dramatic moments of dialog from the Jack and Rose lead characters in the film inserted in between Dion's vocal lines. It was included later on the Back to Titanic second soundtrack album. In France, My Heart Will Go On was released as a double A-side single with The Reason.
Coincidentally, some survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster, which has drawn comparisons to the Titanic disaster, have claimed that the song was playing in a restaurant when Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia first made impact with a rock, which eventually caused the ship to partially sink on the night of January 13, 2012.
"My Heart Will Go On" is Céline Dion's biggest hit and one of the best-selling singles in history, having sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. In the United States, the song was given a limited number of copies - 690,000. Regardless, it debuted at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, with sales of 360,000 copies, where it stayed for two weeks. In addition, the song spent ten weeks at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay, and was number one for two weeks on the Hot 100 Singles Sales. As a testament to the popularity of the song on the radio, the song broke the record for the then-largest radio audience ever, garnering 117 million listeners in February 1998. The single was eventually certified gold in the United States. Ask Billboard reported that the digital copy of the single has sold 1,133,000 units since being available bringing total sales to 1,791,000 copies sold in the US.
In addition "My Heart Will Go On" reached number one in several other U.S. charts, including, Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks, Top 40 Mainstream, Hot Latin Pop Airplay, and Hot Latin Tracks. For the latter, the single became the first English-language song to top the Hot Latin Tracks chart, to which Dion was given a Billboard Latin Music Award for that achievement.
Internationally the song was phenomenally successful, spending many weeks at the top position in various countries, including 17 weeks on the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles, 15 weeks in Switzerland, 13 weeks in France and Germany, 11 weeks in the Netherlands and Sweden, ten weeks in Belgium Wallonia, Denmark, Italy, and Norway, seven weeks in Belgium Flanders, six weeks in Ireland, four weeks in Australia and Austria, two weeks in Spain and the United Kingdom, and one week in Finland.
In Germany, "My Heart Will Go On" was certified 4x platinum for selling over two million copies, and was ranked as one of the most popular singles ever released, there. It sold over 1.2 million copies in France, being certified Diamond. Additionally, the song was certified 3× Platinum in Belgium, 2× Platinum in Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, Platinum in Greece, and Gold in Austria. "My Heart Will Go On" was released twice in Japan. The regular edition from January 1998 sold 210,000 and was certified 2× Platinum, for 200,000 copies sold. The remixed edition released in June 1998 sold 115,000 copies and was certified Gold for 100,000 copies sold, due the fact that maxi-singles are treated as an album.
In the United Kingdom the song sold over 1 million copies, which was Dion's second single to do so. This made her the only solo female artist to have two million-selling singles in the UK, a record which stood until early 2012 when Rihanna's singles "Only Girl (In the World)" (2010) and "We Found Love" (2011) both topped a million sales.
"My Heart Will Go On" won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It dominated the Grammy Awards of 1999, winning Record of the Year marking the first time to be won by a Canadian, Song of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. "My Heart Will Go On" won also the Golden Globe Award for "Best Original Song-Motion Picture" in 1998.
The song also won a Japanese Gold Disc Award, for Song of the Year, as well as a Billboard Music Award for Soundtrack Single of the Year.
In a 2006 poll for a program on Five called Britain's Favourite Break-up Songs, "My Heart Will Go On" was voted tenth. It has been named one of the Songs of the Century. It is one of the best-selling singles ever in the UK, selling over a million copies, the second single released by Dion to do so. She is the only female artist to date to have released two million-selling singles in Britain. It was ranked at number 14 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs, celebrating the 100 greatest songs in American film history. In April 2010, the UK radio station Magic 105.4 voted the single the "top movie song of all time" after listeners' votes. In December 2007, the song peaked #21 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the 90's." However, despite the song's seemingly immense popularity, Rolling Stone readers rated My Heart Will Go On the 7th worst song of the '90s in 2011.
Due to the song's widespread popularity when it was released, it is considered to be Céline Dion's signature song. Today, along with two other songs from film soundtracks,Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard and Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, it is considered one of the biggest love ballads of the 1990s.
It is not so popular with Kate Winslet, who played Rose DeWitt Bukater – the notional protagonist of the song – in the film. She admits that the song makes her feel "like throwing up", due to people's tendency to start playing it when she is around: "I wish I could say, 'Oh listen, everybody! It's the Celine Dion song!' But I don't. I just have to sit there, you know, kind of straight-faced with a massive internal eye roll."
After the song had become a huge worldwide hit, many movie studios and record labels tried to duplicate the process. Although many soundtrack singles had become hits before "My Heart Will Go On," a string of similar songs followed afterward, such as Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from Armageddon and Faith Hill's "There You'll Be" from Pearl Harbor. Each followed in the footsteps of the "Titanic" theme, a love ballad for a tragedy. Although those two songs became hits, they did not achieve the success of "My Heart Will Go On."
Horner himself repeated the formula of making a song from his film themes with films such as A Beautiful Mind, Bicentennial Man, The Perfect Storm, and Avatar.