When it comes to Dolly Parton songs, I have to admit that “Islands In The Stream” is not one of my favorites. Even though it is one of Dolly’s biggest pop hits, I don’t think it’s aged terribly gracefully, and it’s exceptionally cheesy. Still, it’s a classic Dolly song and really, the song that unleashed the Kenny & Dolly phenomenon. Without “Islands In The Stream”, there would be no Once Upon A Christmas and that, dear readers, would be a national tragedy. So for that reason alone, I have to have at least a little bit of a soft spot for “Islands In The Stream” even if I think Dolly has many, many better songs.
I remember buying the 45 of “Islands In The Stream” back when it was popular. It was hot on the heels of the Dolly: Live In London HBO special that cemented my Dolly fandom. I am pretty sure I purchased it without even having heard it. My brother did not care for “Islands In The Stream” but I didn’t care – he didn’t care for a lot of my music and even now, we have pretty divergent musical tastes – I played the hell out of that 45. I even had that picture sleeve, but it is long since lost. So many of my 45s had the original picture sleeves and I either lost them or threw them away once they got too beat up. I was such a fool. It was the vinyl equivalent of taking my Star Wars figures in the sandbox.
“Islands In The Stream” is a product of The Brothers Gibb which I vaguely recall noting back in 1983. Barry Gibb was seemingly making magic happen for everyone’s career but his own at that time. The Bee Gees do have a recorded version, but I have to say that it’s subpar to the Kenny & Dolly version. Kenny & Dolly have performed this song many times over the years, but as I was perusing YouTube trying to find a good version to use, it was a more recent performance that really caught my attention. Even though they have more plastic surgery between them than half of Hollywood, you have to admit that they have such a natural chemistry that it’s no wonder the song was a huge hit.
What really surprised me was just how many covers of this song there are. All you have to do is look on Spotify and sit back and count the covers. There are punk covers, alt-acoustic covers, the previously mentioned version by the Bee Gees. There’s a Barry Gibb/Olivia Newton-John version and even a Marie Osmond/Andy Gibb version. But probably the most “lolwut” version of the song is the one recorded by Barry Manilow and Reba McEntire. Honestly, it’s what prompted this post tonight.
On second thought, maybe I like the Kenny & Dolly version more than I thought I did. It did give us the classic joke “What do you get when Dolly Parton lies down in the bathtub? Islands in the stream.”