Islands in the Stream (song)

"Islands in the Stream" is a song written by the Bee Gees and recorded by American country music artists Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. It was released in August 1983 as the first single from Rogers's fifteenth studio album Eyes That See in the Dark. The Bee Gees released a live version in 1998 and a studio version in 2001.

"Islands in the Stream"
Single by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
from the album Eyes That See in the Dark
ReleasedAugust 15, 1983
RecordedMay 1983
GenreSoft rock[1]
LabelRCA Records
Kenny Rogers singles chronology
"Scarlet Fever"
"Islands in the Stream"
"This Woman"
Dolly Parton singles chronology
"Potential New Boyfriend"
"Islands in the Stream"
"Save the Last Dance for Me"

The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, giving both Rogers and Parton their second pop number-one hit (after Rogers's "Lady" in 1980 and Parton's "9 to 5" in 1981). It also topped the Country and Adult Contemporary charts. In 2005 the song topped Country Music Television's poll of the best country duets of all time; Parton and Rogers reunited to perform the song on a CMT special. As of May 2023, it has been triple certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for three million certified units.[2]

Rogers and Parton went on to record a Christmas album together and had an additional hit with their 1985 duet "Real Love".



Named after an Ernest Hemingway novel, the song was originally written for Diana Ross in an R&B style but later reworked for the duet by Rogers and Parton.[3][4]

It has been claimed that the song was also intended for Marvin Gaye. This is attributed to a 2001 Good Morning America interview with the Bee Gees. When Barry Gibb said the song was written for Ross, Robin Gibb interrupted and said, "No, we wrote it for Marvin Gaye ... We sent it to him but he was dead so it was a bit difficult for him to sing it."[5][6] Gaye actually died in 1984, a year after the recording.[7] Separately, Robin Gibb has said the song was stylistically written "... as a Tamla kind of soul song in a Marvin Gaye type feel", though not asserting it was for Gaye.[8] In other interviews, Barry Gibb has always maintained that Ross was the original artist for the song with no mention of Gaye.[4][9]

For licensing reasons, the song was not included on the digital release of Eyes That See in the Dark from Capitol Records Nashville. Sony Music, the current owner of RCA Records, protected copyrights in the recording, which is digitally available only in various compilations from Sony Music, especially those of Dolly Parton.

Musical structure


The song is sung in moderate 4
, with Rogers and Parton alternating lead vocals. Their version is in C major when Rogers sings lead, but changes to A-flat major when Parton takes over the lead.[10]



Cash Box said that "the sound is simply gorgeous, as is the melody, as are the voices."[11]

In 2024, Rolling Stone ranked the song at #104 on its 200 Greatest Country Songs of All Time ranking.[12]

Commercial performance


The song knocked Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" out of No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, also topping the Country and Adult Contemporary listings. In December of that year, it was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over two million physical copies in the US.[2] After becoming available for digital download, it had sold a further 834,000 digital copies in the US, as of January 2019.[13]

In Australia, the song was number one for one week in December 1983 and became one of the highest selling singles of 1984.

The song reached a peak of No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart in 1983. As of July 2014, it had also sold 245,577 digital copies in the UK.[14] As of 2017, it had racked up 287,200 downloads and 4.83 million streams in the UK.[15]


In April 2008, South Bend, Indiana, radio station WZOW played the song continuously for several days on end,[16] a stunt drawing attention to the station's format change from alternative rock to adult contemporary.

The song was also used as a karaoke song in two episodes of the second season of ABC's The Good Doctor, "Islands Part One" and "Tough Titmouse".[citation needed]

The song appeared in the 2023 Netflix documentary miniseries Beckham, showing David Beckham and his wife Victoria Beckham dancing to it.[citation needed]




Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[39] Platinum 70,000
Canada (Music Canada)[40] 3× Platinum 240,000
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[41] Gold 45,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[42] 2× Platinum 1,200,000
United States (RIAA)[43] 3× Platinum 3,000,000
Sweden (GLF)[44] Platinum 8,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
Streaming-only figures based on certification alone.

Notable cover versions

  • Danish blues-rock singer Peter Thorup and pop singer Anne-Grete Rendtorff had great success with a version with Danish lyrics in 1984 called "Skibe uden Sejl" (Ships Without Sails). The song was used as title track for the Danish TV series Måske i morgen (Maybe Tomorrow) shown on Danish national television DR.
  • Feist and Constantines released a single of the song in 2008.[45]
  • Country artists Hailey Whitters and Ernest, under the moniker Countrypolitan, covered the song in 2021.[46]
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt released a solo cover of the song from her series 9-1-1 in 2024.[47]

Bee Gees' recorded version

"Islands in the Stream"
Song by Bee Gees
from the album Their Greatest Hits: The Record
Released20 November 2001
GenreRhythm and blues
  • Barry Gibb
  • Robin Gibb
  • Maurice Gibb

The Bee Gees performed their version live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on 14 November 1997, which was released a year later on One Night Only, with solo vocal by Barry Gibb. A studio version was recorded for their 2001 retrospective Their Greatest Hits: The Record, which has since featured on the 2004 Number Ones and on the 2010 Mythology box set.[48] The chorus of Pras's 1998 hit "Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)", which in turn is a reworking of the original Rogers and Parton release, replaces the final chorus in the studio recording. The live version of the song appears on their Love Songs compilation.

Personnel (studio version)
Personnel (live version)


Comic Relief version

"(Barry) Islands in the Stream"
Single by Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon featuring Tom Jones and Robin Gibb
from the album Islands in the Stream
ReleasedMarch 8, 2009
Producer(s)Hugh Padgham
Robin Gibb singles chronology
"Too Much Heaven"
"(Barry) Islands in the Stream"
"I've Gotta Get a Message to You"

On March 8, 2009, Welsh celebrities Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon, in character as Vanessa Jenkins and Bryn West from the hit BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey, released a version of the song as a single for Comic Relief. Sir Tom Jones also features on the song, performing the final verse and chorus, whilst Robin Gibb appears on the single as a backing vocalist.

Re-titled "(Barry) Islands in the Stream", in reference to the Barry Island setting of Gavin & Stacey,[49] it entered at the top of the UK Singles Chart on March 15, 2009. This meant the Gibb Brothers had achieved number one songs in five successive decades, the first songwriters to achieve this feat. It also made Tom Jones, at the age of 68, the oldest person to have a UK number one song, until the record was taken in 2020 by Captain Tom Moore for his involvement in "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the age of 99.[50]

The video was filmed in Barry Island, Las Vegas and the Nevada desert, with both Gibb and Jones appearing in the video alongside Jones and Brydon. Nigel Lythgoe also makes a cameo appearance as a talent competition judge.

Track listing

  • CD single
  1. "(Barry) Islands in the Stream" – 3:56
  2. "Wisemen" – 3:14
  3. "Somethin' Stupid" – 2:48
  4. "Islands in the Stream" (music video) – 4:21
  • DVD single
  1. "(Barry) Islands in the Stream" (full-length video) – 8:56
  2. "(Barry) Islands in the Stream" (making of the video) – 14:30



Weekly charts

Chart (2009) Peak
Europe (European Hot 100)[51] 11
Scotland (OCC)[52] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[53] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (2009) Position
UK Singles (OCC)[54] 108

See also



  1. ^ "Robin Gibb, RIP: Hear the Bee Gee's Legacy in 15 Tracks". May 21, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "RIAA Gold & Platinum Program: Islands In The Stream". Retrieved March 9, 2024.
  3. ^ Shcherbakova, Liza (July 19, 2017). "Watch 7 Classic Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton 'Islands in the Stream' Performances Before Their Final Show". Billboard.
  4. ^ a b Newman, Melinda (January 5, 2021). "Barry Gibb on Reuniting with Dolly Parton & Who He 'Freaked Out' Over While Recording New Country Duets Album". Billboard.
  5. ^ "Flashback: Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers Take 'Islands in the Stream' to New Heights". Rolling Stone. October 29, 2014.
  6. ^ "Bee Gees Perform on 'GMA'". ABC News. April 26, 2001.
  7. ^ Wedner, Diane (September 16, 2007). "Taking Over From Titans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  8. ^ Robin Gibb - Intimate with Robin Gibb (interview). evosound. June 13, 2012 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ Bee Gees Documentário - Onde tudo começou. Sentindo o Som!. July 9, 2021 – via YouTube.
  10. ^ "'Islands in the Stream' sheet music". May 4, 2015. Archived from the original on November 13, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  11. ^ "Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. August 27, 1983. p. 8. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  12. ^ "The 200 Greatest Country Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 24, 2014.
  13. ^ Bjorke, Matt (January 15, 2019). "Top 30 Digital Singles: January 15, 2019". RoughStock. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  14. ^ "Country Bites News snippets June 30 - July 6, 2014". Country Routes News. July 13, 2014. Archived from the original on July 23, 2014.
  15. ^ "Happy Birthday Dolly Parton! Her most downloaded songs in the UK revealed". Archived from the original on March 22, 2017.
  16. ^ :Indiana Aiwaves: Archived July 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 256. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. ^ "Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  19. ^ Lwin, Nanda (2000). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide (1st ed.). Canada: Music Data Research. ISBN 1-896594-13-1.
  20. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  21. ^ "Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream". Top 40 Singles.
  22. ^ "Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream". VG-lista.
  23. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  24. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  25. ^ "Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream". Singles Top 100.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  27. ^ "Kenny Rogers Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  28. ^ "Kenny Rogers Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  29. ^ "Kenny Rogers Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  30. ^ " – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  31. ^ "Kent Music Report – National Top 100 Singles for 1983". Kent Music Report. Retrieved January 22, 2023 – via
  32. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada".
  33. ^ "The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  34. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1983". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2015-05-09.
  35. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 436. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  36. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1984". Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  37. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1984/Top 100 Songs of 1984". Archived from the original on May 30, 2016.
  38. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  39. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2020 Singles" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  40. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream". Music Canada. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  41. ^ "Danish single certifications – Kenny Rogers feat. Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  42. ^ "British single certifications – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers – Islands in the Stream". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  43. ^ "American single certifications – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  44. ^ "Sverigetopplistan – Kenny Rogers" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  45. ^ Lindsay, Cam (April 16, 2008). "Constantines & Feist "Islands in the Stream"". Exclaim!. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  46. ^ Hudak, Joseph (July 30, 2021). "Hailey Whitters and Ernest Cover 'Islands in the Stream' for New Duets EP". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  47. ^ Gallucci, Nicole. "'9-1-1' Releases Jennifer Love Hewitt's "Islands in the Stream" Cover In Honor Of Maddie And Chimney's Wedding". Decider. Retrieved May 3, 2024.
  48. ^ "Gibb Songs : 2001". Archived from the original on December 4, 2013.
  49. ^ "What's On". Archived from the original on February 20, 2012.
  50. ^ "Captain Tom Moore claims Number 1 victory on the Official Chart". Official Charts Company. April 24, 2020. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  51. ^ "European Hot 100". Billboard. Vol. 121, no. 12. March 28, 2009. p. 46.
  52. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  53. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  54. ^ "The Official UK Singles Chart 2009" (PDF). UKChartsPlus. Retrieved July 10, 2018.