Monday, March 21, 2016

"Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1587
Date:  08/27/1983
Debut:  58
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Rogers was already having success in 1983 with his album We've Got Tonight, but it was to be his third and final studio album for the Liberty label. He switched to RCA Nashville and they quickly moved to get new material out. So a week after the third single from We've Got Tonight, "Scarlet Fever," hit on the Pop chart, this first RCA single debuted. The duet with Dolly Parton previewed Rogers' new Barry Gibb-produced album Eyes That See in the Dark. It would be Gibb's third production effort apart from the Bee Gees after Barbra Streisand's Guilty and Dionne Warwick's Heartbreaker. All songs were co-written by Barry Gibb with either his brothers or frequent collaborator Albhy Galuten. The combo of Rogers with Parton and the Gibb brothers was certainly a headline grabber and the song did not disappoint. It would reach #1 on three main charts - Pop, Country, and AC - and would go on to be the #1 Country song of 1983. The mega-hit would go platinum and earn Rogers and Parton a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  I still think it is both hilarious and sad that Barry Gibb and his bros would write these songs for other artists that would become hits, yet had they recorded and released them at the time, the songs would have been DOA. Nobody wanted to actually buy a Bee Gees record, however if someone else is singing it, then why not? And it's not like the tunes were radically different from typical Bee Gees material. "Islands" bears a lot of the trademark Bee Gees writing and even their background harmonies are there. People loved Bee Gees songs - they just didn't want to be caught buying them. It was so ridiculous. But then again, had it not played out like it did we might not have experienced this blissful duet. It's a near-perfect pop song featuring an earworm-worthy chorus that anyone can sing along with. Plus, Kenny and Dolly are awesome together. They should have been recording as a duo years before this. Actually, Dolly really shines here and I think a Dolly/Barry Gibb album ala Streisand's Guilty would have been amazing. Not everyone can convincingly sing a Bee Gees tune (some of their syncopated melodies are harder to sing than you think), but her voice and abilities would have been a perfect match.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The Bee Gees originally wrote this as an R&B song with the intended recipient being Marvin Gaye. That didn't seem to work out and as work began on Rogers' album, Barry Gibb presented the song and it evolved into the duet with Parton. It would mark the first time that the two superstars collaborated on a recording. They enjoyed the experience so much that they continued to work together for many years after. They would later record a successful Christmas album and top the Country chart again in 1985 with "Real Love."  2) As the 80s wore on, country music slowly began to disappear from the Pop chart. While a few crossover tunes would still do well, there was little room for it with synthpop, new wave, the second British Invasion, and MTV-driven hits dominating the airwaves. "Islands in the Stream" would end up being the last country song to reach #1 on the Pop chart for seventeen years. The unfortunate streak was finally broken when a remix version of "Amazed" by the country group Lonestar topped the chart in 2000.


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