How Dolly Parton Saved Kenny Rogers From Passing on a Career Hit
Kenny Rogers had just about given up on "Islands in the Stream," a song known today as one of the best — if not the best — country duets of all time.
The singer confessed to Taste of Country that he told songwriter Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, "I don't even like this song anymore," before something changed his mind. You know the rest of the story. Released on Aug. 19, 1983, the song became an iconic hit, reaching the No. 1 position not only in America, but all over the world.
That something was Dolly Parton. "What we need is Dolly Parton,” Gibb told Rogers.
"And my manager said, 'I just saw her downstairs,'" Rogers recalled. "So I said, 'Go get her and bring her back.'" The two had met but weren't friends yet, as Rogers had only appeared on her television show with his old band, the First Edition.
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Rogers continued, "So he brought her back in, and once she came in, that song was never the same. She lit it up and we became good friends from that point on."
Released as the lead single from Rogers' Eyes That See in the Dark album, "Islands in the Stream" would go on to hit No. 1 on Nov. 2, and would land at the top of Billboard's Hot Country Songs, mainstream Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. It earned a Gold single on Oct. 18, 1983, and would go on to be certified Platinum in multiple countries.
Rogers and Parton would go on to record a Christmas album together, and they released another duet, "Real Love," in 1985, and recorded together again in 2013. "You Can't Make Old Friends" was the title track of Rogers' 27th studio album.
Rogers retired from touring with a splashy all-star concert in Nashville in 2017, and he died on March 20, 2020, at the age of 81. Parton posted an emotional tribute to Rogers on March 21, calling him "a wonderful man and a true friend."
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