Did You Know? Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” Was Written for This Solo Artist 

It’s hard to imagine anyone else singing “Islands in the Stream” than Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. The iconic duet is just as beloved today as it was when it was released in 1983. Rogers and Parton’s friendship is part of what makes the song so special – but a pair of other legendary singers almost had their voices on it.

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“Islands in the Stream” was famously written by brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, also known as the legendary disco group the Bee Gees. Over the years, the trio has shared that the song was initially intended for Marvin Gaye to record. But he wasn’t the only one up for consideration. “It was actually written with Diana Ross in mind,” Barry Gibb shared on BBC’s The One Show in 2016.

The song ultimately ended up in Rogers’ hands, yet wasn’t originally planned as a duet. When Rogers called and said he wanted to record a few songs written by the brothers, Gibb jokingly replied that he’d rather do a full album. Much to his surprise, Rogers agreed. Gibb served as co-producer on the album that “Islands” appears on, Eyes That See in the Dark, alongside Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson.

“It all started when Barry Gibb wrote ‘Islands in the Stream,’ and he gave it to me to record, he was producing an album,” Rogers explained to People in 2017. However, after singing the song multiple times on his own over the course of four days, Rogers got sick of it to the point where he almost let it go.

“I finally said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like this song anymore’ and he said, ‘You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton,’” Rogers continued of how Parton got involved. “I had a recording studio at the time and she was downstairs and my manager Ken Kragen said, ‘I just saw her!’ and I said, ‘Well, go get her!’ He went downstairs and she came marching into the room, and once she came in and started singing the song was never the same. It took on a personality of its own.”

The song proved to be a massive hit. It topped the Billboard Hot 100, as well as the Hot Country Songs and Adult Contemporary charts. It’s been certified three times platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA for sales of more than three million copies.

Rogers passed away in 2020 at the age of 81. “He was a very special person and it was a pleasure to work with him,” Gibb praised of Rogers on The One Show.

(Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

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