“Islands in the Stream”
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
Written by Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, and Robin Gibb
Radio & Records
#1 (3 weeks)
October 21 – November 4, 1983
#1 (2 weeks)
October 29, 1983 – November 5, 1983
“Islands in the Stream” is a nonsense song, and I can’t believe that it required the efforts of all three Bee Gees to get it down on paper.
“I set out to get you with a fine-toothed comb?” Come on now.
I’ve known this song for the near forty years it’s been in existence, and I still can’t tell you what the hell its central metaphor is trying to say.
So why is this remarkably silly song getting an A?
Because of the absolute frickin’ superstars that are singing it.
We already know that Kenny Rogers could sing a pop hook as well as anyone, with his everyman voice that could get entire stadiums singing along with him. He sounds fantastic here, and you need look no further than his reading of that “fine-toothed comb” line right out of the gate. He makes an out there lyric sound like a totally normal declaration of love. This man suspends our disbelief before we even get to the chorus.
And then we get Dolly Parton. Legend has it that Parton was right up the road from the studio where Rogers was recording “Islands in the Stream” in its intended solo form. It just wasn’t coming together right. A well-timed invitation to Parton, and suddenly we’ve got one of the biggest country crossover records in history.
Parton soars on “Islands in the Stream.” As I’ve noted before, her songwriting talent often overshadows her remarkable gifts as a singer. But you just try to picture anyone else singing, “No more will you cry. Baby, I will hurt you never,” and coming anywhere close to the sincerity she expresses in that line reading.
It’s no wonder an entire generation of country music fans associate Dolly Parton with Kenny Rogers instead of with Porter Wagoner. They sound so deeply in love here that we’re all out here in the streets in 2023 wanting to be islands in the stream with the love of our lives, and that makes no sense, y’all.
“Islands in the Stream” gets an A.