"I knew Kenny very well. We're very similar. We're like brother and sister really," Parton said.
Even though Kenny Rogers has been gone for almost three years, his close friend and musical collaborator Dolly Parton continues to miss him. The 77-year-old country singer opened up to PEOPLE in an interview, saying, "I miss him so much."
Rogers died at 81 of natural causes back in March 2020, and Parton said of him, "I've lost so many wonderful people in my life in the last few years. But Kenny — he was very, very dear and special and I never get tired of hearing us sing, all the years that we were on stage together."
The explosive duet that earned the duo a No. 1 success on the pop charts in 1983, Islands in the Stream, is one of the tracks that Parton cites as one of her favorite memories of singing with Rogers. "You know how sometimes you get tired of singing something because it just becomes routine?" she asks, laughing, referring to Islands in the Stream, originally written by the band Bee Gees.
She shares, "But I would always lighten up when that particular song was due in the setlist. It just always made everybody feel so good in the audience and the audience always loved singing it. I never got tired of Kenny's voice."
In 2013, Parton and Rogers collaborated to record, You Can't Make Old Friends, a touching song that felt like a tribute to their enduring friendship. The song, written by Ryan Hanna King, Don Schlitz, and Caitlyn Smith, Parton remarks, was recorded "just in time too, honestly," as Rogers officially retired in 2018 due to health issues.
In fact, Parton has never been more in tune with the song's message than she is right now. "You can make new friends that feel like old friends, but there's just something about the people that have spent years together," Parton explains, adding, "You have a history, and you learn about each other, inside and out. I knew Kenny very well. We're very similar. We're like brother and sister really."
Parton feels like Rogers is singing now too. "He's up there singing," she said quietly. "I know that."
Yet, Parton is making new acquaintances since she is now working on a new record with a number of legendary musicians including Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, and Elton John, per PEOPLE. The country music superstar also recently revealed intentions to work with fellow musical classic Dionne Warwick on a gospel duet titled Peace Like a River for the first time. "I've done a lot of iconic songs with a lot of iconic singers," said Parton.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Rick Diamond