How Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Met

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers were friends for decades. They shared the stage during countless performances and collaborated on songs that became classics. Parton was devasted after Rogers died in 2020. Here’s how the country music celebrities first met.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ music

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton sing
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers performing, circa 1990. (Photo by Beth Gwinn/Redferns)

Parton and Rogers sang many duets together. One duet fans love is “Islands in the Stream.” The song was written by Bee Gees member Barry Gibb. After practicing the song for a few days, Rogers grew tired of it, but Gibb suggested that Parton join him for a duet. This proved to be the right decision.

“The story is the producer and the writer on the song was one of the Bee Gees, Barry Gibb,” Rogers recalled during a 2017 Today show interview. “And we had been singing this song in my studio in L.A. for four days. And I finally said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like this song anymore.’ And he said, ‘We need Dolly Parton.’”

Fortunately, Parton was nearby. It only took a few moments to find her and present the idea. “I said, ‘Well, why not, you know?’” said Rogers. “And Ken Kragen, my manager, said, ‘I saw her downstairs.’ I said, ‘Well, go get her.’ And Dolly, in her inimitable fashion, marched into the room and the song was never the same.”

In 1984, Parton and Rogers released an album titled Once Upon a Christmas. One memorable song from the album that they sang together was “A Christmas to Remember.”

How Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers met

Parton and Rogers first met while she was performing on her variety show back in 1976. Parton says they became “buddies” after the show aired. She knew about Rogers before she met him because he was a member of First Edition before becoming a solo artist.

Parton and Rogers developed a special bond that would go on to last decades. “I just loved him,” says Parton in her book Song Teller. “We were such kindred spirits.” Parton says they shared many laughs, and she loved the way Rogers sang.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ relationship

There were rumors that Parton and Rogers had a romantic relationship, but they denied this. Rogers said it’s better to just keep the tension going than to give in. He also said Parton wouldn’t accept his advances.

“I’m a believer that tension is better if you keep it than if you satisfy it,” said Rogers during his Today show interview. “And then secondly, she said no to me.”

However, Rogers admitted to flirting with the “Jolene” singer. He said the two flirted for 30 years.

Parton says she felt their relationship was more like brother and sister. In her book, Parton says she felt as if she lost a sibling when Rogers died in 2020. “When Kenny died, it was like losing a brother,” writes Parton. “That’s the way we were with each other, like brother and sister.”

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