HomeEntertainmentMusicCountry Throwback: Kenny Rogers and Carrie Underwood Sing ‘Islands in the Stream’ to Dolly Parton

Country Throwback: Kenny Rogers and Carrie Underwood Sing ‘Islands in the Stream’ to Dolly Parton

by Suzanne Halliburton
Image Group LA/ABC via Getty Images

Carrie Underwood was months into her career in country music. She’d just won American Idol the year before. And now, she was tasked with singing a Dolly Parton song at a lavish gala for the queen herself.

No pressure, right?

So let’s drift back to 2006, when Underwood and Kenny Rogers provided a this-is-your-song moment for a delighted Dolly Parton.

Underwood and Rogers were part of the Kennedy Center Honor’s program. When singers honor each other’s great work, it’s usually a “this is your song” slice of life.

Underwood’s assignment – sing Parton’s part of one of the most famous duets in music history. Underwood stood on stage, solo, singing the opening verse of “Islands in the Stream.” Parton, sitting in the audience, showed her delight. Then, Kenny Rogers, who Parton often described as her soul mate, joined Underwood on the stage to finish the song.

Carrie Underwood Was Perfect Choice To Honor Dolly Parton

Carrie Underwood and Kenny Rogers represented the merger of the best of new and old country music. Underwood was a year removed from winning “American Idol.” She’d just released her first album. Now, she was tasked with singing a legendary Parton song. She was only 23.

Earlier in 2006, Rogers released an album of most of his most luscious songs. He was an obvious choice to honor Parton, given all the music the two had performed together.

When Rogers died this past March, Underwood reflected back on the times she had the privilege of singing with him. She posted on Instagram: “Country music has lost one of its pillars. Sing with the angels and talk to God, Kenny. Bless you for being a part of so many lives.”

Back In 1983, Whole Country Sang “Islands In The Stream”

Rogers and Parton released “Islands in the Stream” in 1983. It was the song of late summer. The Bee Gees originally wrote it for soul crooner Marvin Gaye.

But even with a country slant to it, Parton and Rogers still made the song a crossover success. “Islands in the Stream” zoomed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Rogers and Parton, who each had their own brilliant solo careers, released a Christmas album together in 1984. They also released “Real Love” in 1985.

Kennedy Center Honors Performing Artists From All Genres

Parton was in Washington, D.C. in 2006 to accept a prestigious designation from the Kennedy Center. In every year since 1978, the center awards people in the performing arts for their lifetime contributions to American culture.

In 2006, the Kennedy Center also honored composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, conductor Zubin Mehta, R&B star Smokey Robinson, and movie director/producer Steven Spielberg.

The Kennedy Center hosts a gala each December before Christmas. The president and the first lady always attended the honors and hosted a party for them. CBS usually broadcasts the performances on network TV. In 2017, Donald and Melania Trump declined to extend the presidential tradition and canceled the White House reception. The first couple also did not participate in 2018-19.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, began hosting the awards. Other cabinet members began hosting receptions.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kennedy Center postponed the 2020 honors show to next March.