Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, “Real Love”

“Real Love”

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

Written by Richard Brannon, David Malloy, and Randy McCormick

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

July 19, 1985


#1 (1 week)

August 24, 1985

For a brief window of time, both Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers were signed to RCA Records, and it was good enough for two collaborative No. 1 country singles.

“Real Love” pales in comparison to “Islands in the Stream,” even if it makes a lot more sense lyrically than that bewildering Gibbs joint ever did.  What’s missing this time around is the sense of discovery that both artists displayed the first time they teamed up.

This feels very much like “Dolly and Kenny had a big crossover hit and did a great Christmas album together.  Let’s get them to do a tour and team up for another big pop hit.”

Pop radio didn’t bite this time, but country radio did, and I’m sure that it sounded just fine during rush hour in the summer of 1985.  But it’s one of the less memorable efforts from either artist, despite a game effort on Parton’s part to inject some personality into the song’s remarkably pedestrian melody. 

Both acts will return to No. 1 on their own again before exiting the RCA Nashville roster.  They won’t have another No. 1 hit together again, but their Grammy-nominated final collaboration, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” is worth seeking out.

“Real Love” gets a B-

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. 1985 was a difficult year for a lot of country artists because it was a transition year. The contemporary sound was dying off and the traditional sound was coming back. Some artists didn’t know what to put out.

    This is not a bad song by any means but it’s also not nearly as impactful as Islands In The Stream. As a matter of fact, even Kenny and Dolly have both left it off greatest hits packages.

    It’s nice but just not that memorable.

    • Dolly’s next No. 1 is crazy synthesizer heavy. You’d never know she’d be doing Trio and having Skaggs produce her next country album. I’m looking forward to writing about the creative process behind the Real Love album. I saved it for her solo No. 1 hit from the LP. (Technically, from a remix LP based on this one, but I digress.)

  2. As incredibly strong as the run of chart toppers have been this decade, there are instances like this where you can hear artists at a creative crossroad, uncertain as to which path will actually take them forward musically.

    This is a harmless result of Nashville squeezing every last drop from the good thing they had birthed with Kenny and Dolly.

    Momentum alone seldom produces significance or meaningful music.

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