The world has lost another music legend with the death of Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton has lost a beloved friend and collaborator. Shortly after news broke on Saturday morning that Rogers had passed, Parton shared an emotional farewell. Fighting back tears, she admitted that her heart will never quite be the same in the absence of her “Islands in the Stream” singing partner.
Taking to Instagram, Parton posted two short videos in honor of Rogers. In the first, she expressed her shock over the loss. “Well, I couldn’t believe it this morning when I got up, turned on the TV, checking in to see what the coronavirus was doing, and they told me that my friend and singing partner Kenny Rogers had passed away,” Parton said. “I know that we all know Kenny is in a better place than we are today, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to be talking to God some time today, if he ain’t already, and he’s going to be asking him to spread some light on a bunch of this darkness going on here.”
She continued, “But I loved Kenny with all my heart, and my heart’s broken and a big ole chunk of it has gone with him today.” She then turned to one of her own songs to reflect her feelings for her late friend, saying, “And I think I can speak for all his family, his friends, his fans, when I say that I will always love you.”
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You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend. So you be safe with God and just know that I will always love you, dolly.
In the second video clip, Parton held up a photo of her with Rogers. “I walked out [of the house this morning] and I thought, Well, maybe I’ll hold that up to everybody,” Parton said, now unable to contain her emotions. “I know you’re as sad as I am. But God bless you, Kenny. Fly high — straight to the arms of God. And to the rest of you, keep the faith.”
Parton touched on the pair’s storied history in her caption, pointing to “so many wonderful years and wonderful times” as well as “all the music and the success.” In addition to “Islands in the Stream,” which peaked on the pop charts at No. 1 in 1983, Parton and Rogers recorded dozens of songs together. “The Greatest Gift of All” is a holiday classic. Their country version of Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” brought the R&B hit to a new generation.
Rogers’ family shared the sad news of his passing at the age of 81 in a statement released on Saturday morning. He died “peacefully at home from natural causes,” they revealed, adding that he was surrounded by friends and family at the time.
Not surprisingly, countless people have since flooded social media to pay their respects to the Country Music Hall of Famer. Joining Parton? Blake Shelton, who reminisced about Rogers’ influence both professionally and personally. “I can’t express on Twitter the impact Kenny Rogers the artist and the man had on me. He was always very kind and fun to be around. Rest In Peace Gambler,” Shelton said.
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A Giant. A Legend. The voice we all sangalong to, and always will. One of the great honors of my life was hosting the “All In For The Gambler” tribute to Kenny Rogers at the Bridgestone in 2017. It blesses me to remember how much love was showered on him that beautiful night. My deepest condolences go out to his wife Wanda, and to all his friends and family. Rest In Peace, Kenny. Thank you for decorating our lives.✨ #ripgambler
Country music singer and Nashville star Charles Esten wrote on Instagram, “A Giant. A Legend. The voice we all sang along to, and always will. One of the greatest honors of my life was hosting the ‘All in For The Gambler’ tribute to Kenny Rogers at the Bridgestone in 2017. It blesses me to remember how much love was showered on him that beautiful night.”
And fellow music icon Wynonna Judd summed up what seemed to be the defining sentiment about Rogers, calling him “one of the greatest examples of integrity I have ever known.”
Before you go, take a minute to honor all the stars we’ve lost in 2020.