The Truth About Dolly Parton And Kenny Rogers' Relationship

What's the truth about Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' relationship? When it comes to country music, few stars are more iconic than Dolly Parton. Known for her huge mass of blonde hair, her unforgettable catchy tunes, and her incredible rags-to-riches story, it's easy to see why Parton has racked up such an impressive collection of fans over the years. 

As any true Dolly Parton fans know, the singer owes a huge portion of her success to her long-time collaboration partner and friend, Kenny Rogers, a hugely successful musician and actor in his own right. Since their fated meeting in in the '70s, Rogers and Parton have collaborated on a series of duets, and have appeared on stage together on dozens of occasions. Their undeniable chemistry has often been the subject of romance rumors, even though the pair always denied being anything more than friends. There's a reason that Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers never dated, as it turns out.

Curious to learn more about what really went on between this legendary music duo? Here is the truth about the decades-long relationship between Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers met in Nashville and began working together quickly

Long before Dolly Parton — who's undergone a stunning transformation — and Kenny Rogers were a classic country music duo, they were simply solo artists at the beginning of their burgeoning careers. The pair first met in the '70s, when Parton was headlining a television show called Dolly

As Rogers explained in his 2012 autobiography Luck or Something Like It, he was invited to appear on Parton's show in the '70s. However, the pair didn't exactly hit it off immediately. "I would like to say that we became immediate friends, but we didn't," Rogers wrote. "I was just another guest in the mix of her very busy schedule" (via The Atlantic). 

By the sounds of things, the iconic duo didn't really have a chance to get to know each other in their initial meeting. As it turns out, they might have never collaborated at all if it hadn't been for one of the Bee Gees bringing them together to sing "Islands in the Stream" much later in 1983!

Kenny Rogers knew that Dolly Parton would make "Islands in the Stream" a hit

The second meeting between Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton was actually the real start to their relationship. It all started when Rogers asked Barry Gibb of Bee Gees fame to produce his 1983 album. Rogers was struggling during the recording of "Islands in the Stream." As he explained in his memoir Luck or Something Like It, "I had worked on the song with Barry for at least four days, something I was not used to doing. I finally told him I didn't even like the song anymore," (via The Atlantic). Apparently, Gibb immediately suggested that they turn the song into a duet by bringing in Dolly Parton.

Luckily enough, Parton happened to be in the same studio on the same day. "She came marching into the room, and once she came in and started singing, the song was never the same," Rogers explained to People (via The Washington Post). The duet became a massive hit, and went on to become one of the best-known country duets of all time (via Billboard). No wonder it was one of Kenny Rogers' favorite songs he ever did.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' many similarities helped them stay close over the years

Throughout the many years of their friendship, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have stayed pretty close. In fact, the pair have seemingly always been as thick as thieves. In the late '80s, Rogers made an appearance on Parton's show, Dolly, and the pair discussed the many similarities that have helped to keep them friends for so long. "I think one of the things that affects a relationship when you're working with someone is your upbringing and your background," Rogers explained. 

Rogers went on to share that both singers had been through similar struggles to reach success in the music industry when they were young. He then added, "I think our religious backgrounds are the same, and our family orientation is the same, so I think it gives us a lot of common denominators to draw on for our friendship." 

Rogers also called Parton a "special person," and said that she occupies a special place in his heart. Awww!

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers shared this touching moment while recording their final duet, "You Can't Make Old Friends"

After decades of friendship and collaboration, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers recorded their final duet in 2013. In 2017, Rogers spoke to Southern Living about the experience of recording the song; apparently, something incredibly touching happened in the studio. Rogers explained how he looked up during the recording, and noticed that Parton had left her place in the studio and had come up to his microphone. "She put her arms around my neck and she said, 'Kenny I think you should know, I could never sing at your funeral,'" Rogers recalled. Naturally, Rogers was a little taken aback by the morbid comment!

Nevertheless, Rogers called the moment his favorite memory of his friend. "I love her for that," he gushed. "You never know she's going to say, but it always comes from love." Talk about a touching, meaningful moment — no wonder Rogers held the incredible memory so close to his heart!

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers toured together and became like family

Like most country music stars, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers spent a lot of time on the road throughout their careers. As their partnership became more and more popular, the duo started to tour together. It was on these trips that Parton and Rogers' friendship truly solidified. "We'd eat, hang out, and we found we really liked each other," Parton recalled in an interview with People. She also shared that their respective band members all got along well together too. "Everybody was like family," she gushed. "Kenny was always like a relative to me." How adorable!

When Rogers appeared on Parton's show, Dolly, in the '80s, the two reminisced about a recent trip to Australia. Parton called it "one of the best times I've ever had in my life." Rogers then revealed that he tended to wake up early to take photos, while Parton would sleep in until the early afternoon. 

Despite their differing schedules, it's evident that the pair had great synergy when they were on the road! 

Dolly Parton felt that she could be playful with Kenny Rogers

One thing's for certain about Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' relationship: the pair always had fun when they were together. Whether they were performing live on stage, or were being filmed in rehearsals, they were constantly laughing and teasing one another. Their unique relationship was due in part to how comfortable they evidently felt in each other's company. As Parton once explained, she used to take a seriously playful tone with her friend (via Biography). "I was always such a feisty little thing and I was always doing stuff backstage or onstage," she explained. "You know, pinch him on the butt or whatever."

Anyone who's seen the pair in one of their many performances or interviews can attest that Parton's playfulness certainly shines through. Whether she's making funny gestures, play-slapping his hand away, or bumping him with her rear end, you can tell Parton loved egging Rogers on.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' chemistry was undeniable on stage -- and fans could not get enough

It's impossible to discuss Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' relationship without mentioning what made them famous: their incredible chemistry! Watching these two on stage, you can't help but think they were born to work together. In 2012, Rogers spoke to CBS News about what made their relationship so special for fans. "I think what we had was a real chemistry and we loved people talking about it," he said.

And people certainly did talk about it! As Deseret noted in 1990, their electric chemistry during an '80s concert was "as if the two had been married for years." Apparently, they "anticipated each other's moves and understood each other's strengths and weaknesses," like an old married couple. It makes you wonder what Kenny Rogers' ex-wife had to say about Dolly Parton!

Parton summed it up best in the "You Can't Make Old Friends" music video: "There was just something about mine and Kenny's chemistry with each other, our friendship, people really sensed what we really feel." No wonder people couldn't get enough of watching these two perform together.

"You Can't Make Old Friends" was written about Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' friendship

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' final duet was a touching, heartfelt song about an old friendship called "You Can't Make Old Friends." In the song, Parton and Rogers sing about what life would be like if the other was gone. 

"You Can't Make Old Friends" was co-written by Don Schlitz, Ryan Hanna King, and Caitlin Smith. According to The Boot, Rogers asked Schlitz to write the song for him and Parton to sing. As Schlitz explained, the song is "obviously very meaningful for the two of them."

At the end of the music video for "You Can't Make Old Friends," Rogers explained that they had "connected personally" doing this duet. After all, most of their previous duets had a romantic feel, while this final duet was about a meaningful and long friendship. Parton then added, "We got to do this song that fits so many people and certainly fits us." What a sweet and incredibly important book end for their long journey as a musical duo.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have collaborated on dozens of duets and even made a Christmas album

Professionally speaking, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers had a hugely successful partnership. After their first duet, "Islands in the Stream," was released in 1983, it reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 list, according to Billboard. They went on to record dozens of other songs together, including "Real Love" in 1985, which peaked at No. 13 on the charts. The pair even recorded a joint Christmas album in 1984 (via A Taste of Country)! It's clear that their working relationship just, well, worked.

Parton and Rogers spoke about their favorite songs from their long career in a video interview. Parton mentioned "You Can't Make Old Friends," because of how personal it was to them as a pair. She also reminisced about the time they sang, "I Will Always Love You" together. However, both agreed that "Islands in the Stream" holds the most memories for them both. We can't say we blame them for having a hard time picking just one favorite song! However, Dolly Parton does have a favorite song she wrote.

Dolly Parton offered both physical and emotional support to Kenny Rogers during his last tour

In 2017, Kenny Rogers finally said goodbye to the music industry, giving one final tour before retirement. As A Taste of Country reported, Dolly Parton was, of course, present for the farewell tour. Apparently, Rogers was suffering from pain in his knees and other ailments during the show, and Parton was there to support him both physically and emotionally.

In a clip from the concert, you can see that Parton was eager to give Rogers the send off he deserved — while still teasing him as usual! "How about a hand for this guy right here, is he not something!" she screamed as they entered the stage. She later said, "Kenny, of course, says he's retiring." She then playfully added, "I want to see what condition your condition is really in. He looks good to me!" 

Just looking at Rogers' loving smiles as Parton speaks, it's crystal clear that he seriously appreciated having her there for his last few shows.

Did Dolly Parton ever make a move on Kenny Rogers?

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers always firmly denied rumors of romance. However, in a 2020 Closer Weekly interview with Marianne Gordon, Kenny Rogers' ex-wife opened up about Dolly Parton, sharing new details about their relationship.

Gordon and Rogers were together for 16 years, until their divorce in 1997. And while Gordon explained that she was never worried about Parton and Rogers becoming romantically involved, she revealed that she thought that Parton may have made a move at one point. "It's entered my mind," she explained, "because she always said she thought like a man." Perhaps that masculine energy is one of the reasons Dolly Parton never had kids.

Gordon went on to explain that Rogers had been open about his feelings and intentions at the time. "He sincerely felt they, [Rogers and Parton], had a cute thing going," Gordon said, "and if anything happened between them, they'd ruin that."

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have never been more than friends -- but they did engage in some "harmless flirting"

Almost every Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers fan has probably wondered if the famous country music singers were ever an item. After all, the pair have been asked in plenty of interviews about whether their friendship has ever blossomed into something more. And while they've always denied the speculations, they have admitted to indulging in quite a lot of flirting over the years.

The pair spoke to Today in 2017 about why a romance never happened. "I'm a believer that tension is better if you keep it than if you satisfy it," Rogers explained. Then Parton chimed in, saying, "We were almost like brother and sister, and it would almost be like incest." In a later interview with Today, Rogers said that while they didn't have an affair, they "just flirted together for 30 years." He explained that it was more fun!

Plus, both singers had pretty eventful love lives of their own. Rogers has been married five times, while Parton has been married to Carl Dean for decades (via People). What's the real reason you never see Dolly Parton's husband, anyway?

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers were friendship soulmates

It's pretty evident that there was a whole lot of love between Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. In fact, even though the pair were never romantically involved, they still regard each other as soulmates. "Kenny's friendship means more to me than our hit records," Parton told AskAnythingChat in 2017. "Actually, we're kind of like little soulmates." 

Rogers also feels the same was that Parton does about their connection. In the duo's "You Can't Make Old Friends" music video, he referred to themselves as "soul partners." Parton explained, "There are different kinds of soulmates."

When Rogers appeared on the Bobby Bones Show, he told a funny story about how their special friendship worked. He explained that the pair could go three years without seeing each other, and pick up right where they left off when the reconnected. However, Rogers didn't know Parton's phone number or email; instead, the pair communicated solely by fax, thanks to Parton's preference for the medium. What a seriously adorable friendship!

Kenny Rogers' death hit Dolly Parton hard

Sadly, Kenny Rogers passed away in 2020, according to a statement from his representative obtained by Rolling Stone. Naturally, it was no surprise that his old friend Dolly Parton was heartbroken by his death. She posted a touching tribute to her longtime collaborator on Twitter, writing, "You never know how much you love somebody until they're gone...I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend." In the tearful video that accompanied the text, she said, "My heart's broken, and a big old chunk of it has gone with him today." We're so sorry for your loss, Dolly.

A few days later, Parton spoke to Today about his passing. She explained that the news shook her, and left her feeling extremely emotional for several days. However, she also shared, "I've kind of put it in a peaceful place, knowing that he's at peace....I'll always miss him, but I'll always treasure what we had together." We think it's safe to say that all of their fans feel the same way.