Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes, “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer”

“Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer”

Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes

Written by Kim Carnes and David Ellingson

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

May 23 – May 30, 1980

Kenny Rogers’ Kenny album had been one of his biggest successes, with “Coward of the County” being the last No. 1 country single of the seventies. He took an interesting creative turn as a follow-up, releasing the concept album Gideon in 1980.  All of the songs were written by Kim Carnes and David Ellingson, and Carnes provided vocal support on the album’s only single.

“Don’t Fall in Love With a Dream” is smartly constructed, with the dreamer and his doomed lover sharing their experiences in the verses.  The chorus works as a warning from the dreamer and a wailing from his partner.  He’s trying to convince her not to love him, while she uses the same words to try and convince herself of the same thing.

It’s really hard to write a duet that works so well, and this one wouldn’t be nearly as compelling as a solo track.  However, the other thing that a duet has to get right is the pairing of the voices.  I’m quite fond of both vocalists here, and they sound fine when they’re singing by themselves.

But when they harmonize, it’s like sandpaper.  They don’t complement each other at all, and it’s grating to my ears hearing them sing together.  It’s a shame because the chorus is written so well.  There are some live duets with Rogers from his later years where he sings it with Linda Davis in 2003 and Wynonna in 2010.  Unsurprisingly, that last version is the best one.

Regardless, it was a big hit that was overshadowed by solo records from both artists in the same year.  Carnes would spend nine weeks at No. 1 on the pop chart with her classic “Bette Davis Eyes,” which won the Grammy for Record of the Year.  She’d resurface in the country market in the early nineties as the songwriter of another No. 1 duet: Reba McEntire and Vince Gill’s “The Heart Won’t Lie.”

Rogers followed “Dreamer” with the top five hit “Love the World Away,” which was from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack.  Both singles appeared on his 1980 Greatest Hits album, which was led off by the biggest crossover hit of his career.  We’ll see it later this year.

“Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer” gets a B-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Yes, admittedly Kenny and Kim sound like a Mutt-and-Jeff pairing–but “Dreamer” was a very big hit, not only on the C&W chart, but also on the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts as well.

    Re. “Bette Davis Eyes” (co-written by Jackie DeShannon, by the way): That actually spent nine (non-consecutive) weeks at #1 in the spring and sumemr of 1981, which put it in a tie for most weeks in the Hot 100 penthouse with Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s duet “Endless Love” (which was #1 for nine straight weeks in the late summer and early fall).

  2. Kenny Rogers is my all time favorite male country singer and this is my favorite song by him. It’s a sad song about a couple who know they will never settle down together yet can’t let go of each other. I’m a sucker for those types of songs.

    I think Rogers and Carnes sound amazing together. The two met when they were both in New Christy Minstrels and Rogers asked her to write a concept album about a modern day cowboy.

    Carnes said when Rogers heard the demo he stopped the tape and asked if she would sing it with him. Rogers said it sounds like they’re both hemoraging when they sing together but I love it.

    Carnes also had a Top Ten hit in 1980 with Smokey Robinson’s More Love. Bette Davis Eyes became the number one song of 1981 and the number two song overall for the 1980s behind Physical by Olivia Newton John.

  3. Responding to this post found me stumbling into the realization I am not a huge fan of Rogers’ duets as a whole. I am not blind to how insanely successful many of his duets – including this one- were, and how significant they are to country music history. Perhaps as intended, they seem to stand apart from the rest of his work.

    I should have thought this out better before responding because I haven’t quite figured out what my point is with this observation, or if I even think it’s accurate. I guess I will have the opportunity to sort it out.

    I do know that I agree with “Caj” that I hear more drama and intensity here than dissonance when they sing together on this one. Their shared throaty vocals pair well and add a visceral urgency to the lyrics. It’s a big performance.

  4. As a solo artist, Kenny Rogers was an up and down experience for me. He had many great country recordings but he also was the genre’s greatest purveyor of schlock.

    His duets were consistently interesting, if not always great. I am a big fan of his duets with Dottie West (my favorite is “ALL I NEED IS YOU”, which was a Sonny & Cher hit although I think the best version was Ray Sanders’ version as a solo).

    I do like this song although it would be difficult to conceive of many songs on which a Kenny Rogers – Kim Carnes duet would be satisfactory

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