Discover the singers who have captured Dolly Parton’s heart and made her collaborations truly unforgettable!

Dolly Parton: A Career Built on Collaboration

Dolly Parton is one of the most iconic and beloved artists in country music history. Over her decades-long career, Parton has achieved commercial success, critical acclaim, and cultural impact through her songwriting, vocal talents, and business savvy. However, Parton’s success would not have been possible without her willingness to collaborate with other talented artists. Throughout her career, Parton has enjoyed fruitful creative partnerships that have resulted in massive hit songs and albums. Here is a closer look at 5 key collaborators who helped shape Dolly Parton’s legendary career.


Parton’s first major collaboration came early in her career when she joined Porter Wagoner’s syndicated television show in 1967. At the time, Wagoner was already an established star in the country music world. Partnering with Wagoner gave the then-unknown Parton valuable exposure and experience performing live on national television each week. Their musical partnership was also lucrative. Between 1967-1974, Parton and Wagoner recorded several hit duet albums together and charted over 20 Top 10 country singles. Their signature duet was “Just Someone I Used to Know,” which topped the country charts in 1972.

While creatively and financially successful, Parton and Wagoner’s partnership was also tumultuous at times. Wagoner wanted Parton to adopt a more traditional country image while Parton was pushing creative boundaries with her songwriting and glamorous look. Their differing musical tastes and visions for Parton’s career led to clashes. By 1974, Parton felt she had outgrown her role as Wagoner’s duet partner and protégé. She formally left his show in 1974, though they continued to record together occasionally for a few more years. Parton’s split from Wagoner was an important step in establishing her independence as a solo artist. However, her time with Wagoner in the late 1960s-early 1970s was formative in launching Parton’s career and popularity.


One of the biggest collaborations of Parton’s career came in 1983 when she teamed up with fellow country star Kenny Rogers for the smash hit “Islands in the Stream.” Written by the Bee Gees, the smooth country-pop duet topped both the country and pop charts in the U.S. and became a worldwide sensation. “Islands in the Stream” was nominated for multiple Grammys and helped further broaden Parton and Rogers’ appeal beyond just country music fans. The massive crossover success of the song cemented Parton and Rogers as two of the biggest stars in the genre.

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In the years following “Islands in the Stream,” Parton and Rogers continued to collaborate on occasion. They recorded several other duets together including “Real Love” in 1985 and “You Can’t Make Old Friends” in 2013. Their vocal harmonies and friendly stage chemistry made them a popular pairing. Rogers has spoken highly of Parton’s songwriting talents and credits her with writing some of his most memorable songs. Their most iconic collaboration remains “Islands in the Stream,” which endures as one of the best-selling country music singles of all time and introduced Parton to an even wider mainstream audience.


One of Parton’s most artistically rewarding partnerships has been with fellow country-folk singer Emmylou Harris. The two first met in the 1970s and immediately bonded over their shared love of bluegrass and acoustic country music. In 1976, they recorded their first duet together – a cover of the Phil Spector song “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”

In 1984, Parton and Harris took their collaboration to the next level by recording a full-length duets album titled “The Love Album.” Blending their distinct vocal styles and musical influences, “The Love Album” was critically acclaimed for its roots-oriented sound and emotional performances. Standout tracks included Bob Dylan’s “If You See Him, If You See Her” and the title track “The Love Album.” The album was also a commercial success, peaking at #3 on the Billboard country albums chart.
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Parton and Harris continued recording together sporadically over the next few decades. They reunited for another duets album in 2002 called “Saltwater Gospel” which featured traditional hymns and gospel songs. Their harmonies remained as strong as ever. Off stage, Parton has cited Harris as one of her closest friends and a constant source of inspiration throughout her career. Both consider their collaborative work together to be among their most cherished musical partnerships.


In the late 1980s, Parton joined forces with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris to form the supergroup Trio. Blending their three distinct country-rock-folk styles, Trio released their self-titled debut album in 1987. The album was an instant critical and commercial smash, topping the Billboard country and pop albums charts. Standout tracks included Parton’s classic “Telling Me Lies,” Harris’ “Those Memories of You,” and Ronstadt’s version of “To Know Him is to Love Him.”

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Buoyed by the success of their first effort, Trio returned in 1990 with “Trio II.” While not quite matching the sales of the debut, the album still performed very well commercially and further showcased the trio’s vocal prowess. Their blend of country, bluegrass, folk and pop-rock styles helped introduce these genres to a wider mainstream audience. Both Trio albums received Grammy nominations and are considered landmark recordings that had a major influence on the Americana and alternative country genres.

Parton has said working with Ronstadt and Harris in Trio was one of the most creatively fulfilling periods of her career. The trio allowed each singer to play to their individual strengths while also blending beautifully together. Their live shows were also hugely popular events. While Trio did not record any new material after the 1990s, their albums remain touchstones that highlighted country music’s intersection with other genres through three of its greatest female voices.


One of Parton’s most recent and unexpected collaborations came with the contemporary Christian pop duo For King & Country. The Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone are nearly 50 years Parton’s junior, yet they share her faith-focused values. In 2019, Parton was featured on For King & Country’s song “God Only Knows” from their album of the same name.

The uplifting song about God’s unconditional love became a Christian radio hit. It also won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. Parton’s vocals brought an inspiring gravitas to the track and helped introduce the duo to an older audience. She and For King & Country have performed “God Only Knows” live on multiple award shows.
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While a more modern pairing than Parton’s previous collaborations, her work with For King & Country has been meaningful. It highlights how Parton’s message of faith and positivity continues to resonate across generations. She also enjoys nurturing new artistic relationships, as evidenced by her willingness to work with the younger duo. For King & Country in turn benefitted greatly from Parton’s star power and expertise to take their career to new heights. Their Grammy win together showed country and Christian audiences the power of uniting diverse talents.


Over a career spanning nearly 60 years, Dolly Parton has proven herself a master collaborator. Whether partnering with established legends or new artists, Parton approaches each relationship with humility, work ethic and a desire to lift up her fellow musicians. Her willingness to blend genres and push creative boundaries also opened artistic doors for her collaborators. Through it all, Parton’s focus has remained on crafting memorable music and forging human connections. As a result, she leaves a legacy of iconic duo performances and group projects that shaped the course of country, pop and Americana music. Dolly Parton’s collaborative spirit is just as responsible as her talent for her status as a living legend.

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