Dolly Parton is remembering her longtime friend and frequent singing partner, Kenny Rogers, who passed away from natural causes back in March of 2020 at the age of 81.
As the three year anniversary of Rogers’ death approaches, Parton talked with People about who he was to her and how special their friendship and professional relationship was while he was still alive.
“I miss him so much,” she started. “I’ve lost so many wonderful people in my life in the last few years. But Kenny — he was very, very dear and special and I never get tired of hearing us sing, all the years that we were on stage together.”
Most memorably, Parton and Rogers dueted on the 1983 No. 1 hit song, “Islands in the Stream”.
“You know how sometimes you get tired of singing something because it just becomes routine?” she asked, specifically referencing their 1983 track. “But I would always lighten up when that particular song was due in the setlist. It just always made everybody feel so good in the audience and the audience always loved singing it. I never got tired of Kenny’s voice.”
In 2013, the duo sang together again on the song, “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, in which Rogers had said was “written for the two of us”.
“We sang it on the stage of the war memorial in Nashville and both of us were really choked up, because it’s kind of a poignantly sad song,” Rogers told Fox & Friends in 2016. “It’s about what am I going to do when you’re gone.”
Being only five years before Rogers retired from music because of health related issues, Dolly gratefully tells People they recorded that song “just in time”, adding “And now I can’t hardly sing it.”
“You can make new friends that feel like old friends, but there’s just something about the people that have spent years together,” she explained. “You have a history, and you learn about each other, inside and out. I knew Kenny very well. We’re very similar. We’re like brother and sister really.
“He’s up there singing,” she added after an emotional sigh. “I know that.”
The 77-year-old “Jolene” singer has been busy as of late working on a new album, which features some of the music industry’s biggest names including, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Nicks. She also just released a posthumous single of a duet with Olivia Newton-John in which they covered Parton’s “Jolene”.
“I’m so excited to be working with Olivia Newton-John, one of my favorites of all time,” she said in a statement prior to the recording of the cover. “We’re singing one of my all-time favorites that I’ve written, ‘Jolene,’ and she says it’s one of her favorites, so why not just do a duet on our favorite?”
“I might as well do everything I could possibly cram into this year,” she told People. “I’m not one to let time go to waste. I’m not one to let anything valuable go to waste if I can help it.”
Parton was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past November as she celebrates her nearly 60-year-long singing career.