Three days ago, Warner Bros released Kenny Rogers’ much awaited album “You Can’t Make Old Friends” creating a fair amount of hype in country music circles. It’s a great production and the album is well received with good reviews thus far, a response which befits a living country (and pop) music legend, such as Kenny Rogers, of course. Kenny’s prolific career has delighted fans for the better part of 60 years, seldom missing the mark for entertainment value, but an added bonus to the album is found in the title track You Can’t Make Old Friends, a duet featuring another country & pop music supernova, Dolly Parton. It’s a collaboration that is long overdue since it’s been 30 years since the two country legends last made chart topping history together, back in the 80’s.
Do Supernovas Need A Gimmick?
There’s definitely a lot to be excited about and news of the album’s release on the 8 October 2013 was enough to draw the faithful crowds and ensure decent sales for the the country music veterans. Add Kenny’s country music Midas touch and his tireless work ethic to the delicious promise of the long-awaited collaboration with Dolly, and one would assume that would pretty much have “sealed the deal” as far as publicity goes. Seems however that there are a few folk out there who were a little less convinced about that, choosing instead to to tap in on that old rumor of romance between the two to incite public interest and draw attention.
There should be no doubt as to how super-awesome I think Kenny and Dolly are but let it be known that yes, I am quite peeved about having an old, almost-a-scandal-but-not-quite rumor dragged out as a curtain raiser for the doubting Thonas’ who have as little faith in country music as they have in securing their ratings or drawing the attention of their online viewership.
Rubik Cubes, Country Music & Toads
As an 80’s kid, Kenny and Dolly were pretty much the reason country music existed by my snot-nosed reasoning. I have vague recollections of clumsily knocking my way around a bull-headed Rubik cube which just wouldn’t give, while absentmindedly wondering what the heck was so special about islands in a stream to anyone beside those darn toads that came out in our backyard at dusk and tried to croak the behinds off from low flying ducks, in the hope of getting wind of a nearby stream!
Back then I didn’t even know that it was country music Dolly was singing, but I knew for sure I liked her cheekiness as much as I loved hearing her voice. As for Kenny, he pretty much had me hooked the first time I heard The Gambler.
“I’m not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know that I’m not dumb. I also know I’m not blonde.” – Dolly Parton at her cheekiest best.
Islands In The Stream – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton (1983)
The Greatest Country Duet of All Time
Kenny and Dolly first got together in 1983 (seen in the clip above) when they covered the Bee Gees hit Islands In The Stream. The chemistry between the two set the lyrics ablaze and the duet topped both country and pop charts that year, marking the start of an evergreen friendship which would be the source of endless speculation for many years to come. The chemistry would also result in Islands In The Stream being voted The Greatest Country Duet of All Time, in 2005.
Even when I finally realized that there was more to country music than Jolene, The Gambler and Islands in the Stream, the new found wit did little to dim the heat that Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton emitted individually – as country stars, each in their own right – or as a duo with a sensation-inciting type of chemistry that, consummated, would admittedly have made a blockbusting big screen love story. Not the case though according to both stars’ unwavering denials of any sort of romance between them, both sticking to their guns that what they shared was nothing more than a great bosom friendship.
Of course, by the paparazzi’s devious reckoning however, no duo could make sparks fly on a stage without setting fireworks off between the sheets. These rumors have survived the years on a media cyclic life-support systems mostly due to the media dated notion that even a false hint of sex sells better than good old fashioned country (and despite Bollywood consistently smacking that notion down to ground, bhangra musical after bhangra musical.) The rumors seem to be seasonally recycled by lazy anchors and conditioned reporters who strategically resuscitate them as they really have no clue as to how much we love country music for what it is – no bells, no whistles and often with just a yellow ribbon flying from our hair.
I reckon it’s a smack in the face of Kenny and Dolly’s star stature especially in light of their collective and individual contributions to the country music (and pop) genres. Far as I’m concerned, it’s just tacky playing on those rumors again especially if there really is no change to the story which both Dolly and Kenny have stuck to vehemently for the last 30 years. With all due respect, since the very start of that story (somewhere in the 80′s) between Dolly’s tirelessly expanding bosom, Kenny’s leonine charisma with the ladies and halting late life virility plus both stars’ inherent Nip-Tuck affinities, these two names need very little by way of gimmick and sensationalism to create publicity around any new venture they are engaged in. What I say in fact is that none of these antics measure up to the magnitude of their talent. This is Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton! Living Country Music Legends, by all accounts – who hasn’t heard them sing?! Do we really have to be bamboozled into watching an interview with the promise of a possible “tell-all”? I. Don’t. Think. So.
Gossip surrounding their relationship did its bit to keep them front of mind back then and fuel record sales despite both Kenny and Dolly categorically denying any romantic involvement, admittedly. Did they work it to their sweet advantage? For sure. And, it was a recipe that worked well for them but really, it’s so last century now when some talk show host opens that can, it just starts to be annoying. Then to see headlines announcing the album’s release competing with headline’s about those stale old rumors – well, doesn’t that just steal some dignity from the album?
“Can’t Make Old Friends” is a sweet song, thoughtfully composed and loaded with personal sentiment that’s just tailored made for the two old buddies. There’s a whole lot of good old fashioned, country sentiment, warmth and affection but what about that Rogers-Parton heat of yesteryear? Well, I have to admit that, no sir, in all honesty the heat has died down to a comforting warmth which is more reminiscent of a cozy hot-water bottle which warms the feet in heart of winter, than spikes the passion that shoots from fiery lovers’ blaze. And, at 75 (Kenny) and 67 (Dolly), we should all be okay with that, methinks?
As a fan, I’m more than a little peeved that the interview with Marc Lamont of the The Huff Live, made headlines purely for the mention of those stale rumors about an affair between the two (which never was) while, I felt that interview had so much more warmth and genuine friendship to show when Kenny discusses Dolly’s silly faxing quirk. To once more have the “Rogers-Parton” non-Affair dangled before my nose in the hope of titillating and sensationalizing a stale, dead-beat rumor only to have it denied, YET AGAIN, is dull and surely The Huffington Post could have done better than that? Going the “non-Affair” route was lazy and lacking in creativity and I fail to be impressed by that recent interview with Marc Lamont Hill from Huffington Post, or the sensationalized, rather misleading headlines which followed.
Much Ado About Nothing
Cheap trick if you ask me. Had Kenny actually brought some new information to light, it may have been a different story but he didn’t, and paparazzi get over it, it just ain’t gonna happen! ? So what the heck is all the fuss about? Why pry that empty tin of worms open (AGAIN) – whoever had that bright idea should be reminded that these two artists are contemporaries of legends such Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson to name but a few and did a good job of making their mark on country music and taking it into homes and hearts of people around the world without an ounce of sleaze or tacky, stale and dated gimmicks. There was so much more to the interview that may have been worth working with but…. I deviate so lets leave it at that, for now. All I say is: Huff-Puff-Pass on the post and go straight to the music!
And speaking of which, as far as the album goes, it’s a pretty decent production. The duet is also quite a sweet offering, worth listening to but we all know that it probably won’t be the history-making type of chart-topping track that Islands In The Stream was. Check it out and let me know what you think.
You Can’t Make Old Friends, Kenny Rogers ft. Dolly Parton (October 2013)
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