Dolly Parton Reflects on Three-Year Anniversary of Kenny Roger’s Death: “I Miss Him So Much”

Nearly three years since Kenny Rogers died on March 20, 2020, at the age of 81, one of his dearest friends and collaborators, Dolly Parton, said she still thinks of him often and misses him.

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“I miss him so much,” said Parton. “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.”

Over more than 30 years, the two recorded a number of duets together, from the ’80s through the 2010s, including ‘Real Love” in 1985, “Love is Strange” (1990), and “Undercover” (2003). The duo even put out a holiday album together, Once Upon a Christmas, in 1984.

Of all the songs they sang together, Parton said that their 1983 hit “Islands in the Stream” left her with some of the best memories.

“You know how sometimes you get tired of singing something because it just becomes routine?” said Parton of their classic. “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.”

Written by the Bee Gees‘ Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, and Robin Gibb, “Islands in the Stream” was the lead single on Rogers’ 15th album, Eyes That See in the Dark, and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song gave both artists a second No. 1—Rogers’s second since his 1980 hit, “Lady,” and Parton’s a follow-up to her 1981 hit, “9 to 5.”

In 2013, Parton and Rogers collaborated one last time for the song “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” Written by Ryan Hanna King, Don Schlitz, and Caitlyn Smith, the song was the title track of Rogers’ 27th and final album and centered around a lifelong friendship, much like the one he had with Parton.

Soon after the two recorded the song, Rogers retired from performing in 2018 due to health issues. “Now I can’t hardly sing it,” shared Parton of their final duet together.

Elaborating on the deeper meaning of the song for her, Parton said, “You can make new friends that feel like old friends, but there’s just something about the people that have spent years together. 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.”

She added, “He’s up there singing. I know that.”

Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

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