Dolly Parton learned much about what was truly valuable in life growing up in the Smoky Mountains of Sevier County, Tennessee. Her story has been told in song and on the screen, and the touching truth of “The Coat of Many Colors” has become cherished across the world. Among the lessons imparted through the loving example of her parents and neighbors was one to value good friends as treasures. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton have been creative collaborators for 50 years, but more than anything, they are the kind of friends that only become forged over decades of sharing memories, tragedies, joys, and tears.

Kenny Rogers announced last year that he would retire at the age of 79 this year, wisely choosing to be celebrated for his genre-crossing career than to leave anyone asking “Is he still here?” Dolly Parton was likely appointed as planner-in-chief.

The string of musical all-stars was dubbed by People magazine to be “one of the strongest ever assembled” in Nashville, all there to serenade Rogers’ life and career from rock to country, the songs to movies and everything in between. Reba McEntire, Lady Antebellum, Allison Krauss, Chris Stapleton, Don Henley, and Lionel Richie were among the superstars of song who allowed Kenny to sit back and savor his legacy while they did the heavy lifting on all his hits from the stage.

There could only be one showstopper for the finale, and Dolly Parton poured out her heart and pure mountain hospitality to ensure her good friend had an unforgettable night

The duo does it again

Dolly sashayed out in her dazzling white, fringe-slinging dress, and it was just like the old days between her and Kenny. He was the willing straight man to her rapid-fire fun lines, but the chemistry between the partners clearly hadn’t diminished over decades.

Dolly opened with teasers about the retirement, saying that “many, many, many years from now, I’ll know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em,” with “The Gambler” singer. Dolly teased about her trademark physical endowment. She even asked, “You want to hold ‘em now?” Rogers never missed a beat in saying that would be no embarrassment.

The roll out of memories continued from their first meeting, studio sessions, and many times on tour.

The laughs were there but never detracted from the love that pulsed from the retelling of their tales.

The song that came first was not one of the monster hits which consumed the airwaves through the 80s, like their classic “Islands in the Stream,” gifted from the Bee Gees. Instead, they chose a song so dear to their own hearts, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” which was recorded in 2013, and instantly was “timeless magic” in Kenny’s estimation.

Dolly originally wrote “I Will Always Love You” as a parting song to Porter Wagoner after deciding to spread her artistic wings and fly solo. After this night, though, and her assurance that Kenny Rogers would be “forever” in the part of her “that’s never, ever going to be touched by anybody else,” the anthem of devotion will be ever-associated with this enduring friendship and emotional professional farewell.

Kenny’s eyes spoke volumes.

Despite ribbing about tabloid rumors, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers reflect on their bond as deeper than anything physical, “more like brother and sister, but maybe deeper, in a way,” Dolly insists. That’s why no impetuous fling was ever part of the equation

Bedtime story

Dolly doesn’t need to sing to move an entire nation, it seems. The country queen had to be delighted with all the glowing love flowing from the UK after reading a bedtime story about a dog who loves books on the children’s TV program, “CBeebie’s Bedtime Stories.”

Parents and children raved over the reading, calling it “FAB-U-LOUS” on social media.

Sharing stories is another passion for Parton, whose Imagination Library has just surpassed 100 million books distributed to young children worldwide. The proceeds of her latest album, “I Believe in You,” featuring her original songs to inspire children and families, benefit the literacy initiative.

From sharing the stage with a dear friend to sending little ones off to dreamland, Dolly knows how to create sweet dreams.

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