Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream”
31 years ago today, Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb – collectively known as the Bee Gees – added another notch to their belt by having one of their compositions top not only the Billboard Hot 100 but also the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart as well.
With a title on loan from an Ernest Hemingway novel, “Islands in the Stream” ended up being the gift that keeps on giving, not only for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, who turned the song into a platinum-selling single that topped CMT’s 2005 poll of the best country duets of all time, but for the brothers Gibb as well, who have also seen the song covered by Barry Manilow and Reba McEntire (on Manilow’s 2007 album, The Greatest Songs of the Eighties), Feist and The Constantines (on the deluxe edition of Feist’s album, The Reminder), Michael Scott and Jim Halpert, a.k.a. Steve Carell and John Krasinski, on The Office, and Wayne Brady on How I Met Your Mother. You may also recall that “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are),” by Pras featuring Mya and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, heavily borrowed from the song for its chorus.
Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t make sure that you’d seen this clip, something which many Americans might’ve missed, as it was done in the UK for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day in 2009: Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon from the BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey covering the song with the assistance of Robin Gibb on backing vocals and, for the final verse and chorus, the one and only Sir Tom Jones.
The cover is of particular note because its #1 success in the UK meant that the Gibb brothers had successfully topped the British charts in five consecutive decades, the first songwriters ever to have accomplished such a thing.
Not bad, Bee Gees. Not bad at all.