35 Years Ago, ‘Islands In the Stream’ Won an ACM Award

Before it became a karaoke staple, Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton‘s “Islands in the Stream” was one of the biggest crossover hits of the ’80s. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks, Hot Country Songs for two weeks and Adult Contemporary for four weeks.

On May 14, 1984, 35 years ago this week, the buoyant record was named single of the year at the 19th annual Academy of Country Music Awards. The show, co-hosted by Mac Davis, Crystal Gayle and Charley Pride, was held at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif.

This was Rogers’ second ACM single of the year winner (following 1977’s “Lucille”). It was Parton’s first (and only) winner in that category. It was also the only ACM win for the three men who co-produced the record—Barry Gibb, Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten. Gibb co-wrote the song with his younger brothers Robin and Maurice. The brothers, of course, comprised Bee Gees, one of the most successful pop groups of all time.

Accepting the award from a remote location, Rogers good-naturedly made note of his heavyweight collaborators. “For those of you who are aspiring young artists and would like to have record of the year, there’s a real simple solution to it—you simply call Dolly Parton at home, call Barry Gibb at home and tell them you want to do duets with them. There’s nothing to it at all!”

“Islands in the Stream” had won an American Music Award for favorite country single and had received a Grammy nomination for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal. It went on to receive CMA noms for single and song of the year. (It’s interesting that the Grammys slotted it as pop, where it lost to The Police‘s “Every Breath You Take,” rather than country, which was won that year by Alabama‘s “The Closer You Get.”)

Rogers and Parton won a second ACM award for duo of the year. The buddies have re-teamed several times, notably for 1984’s Once upon a Christmas album and a 1990 remake of Mickey and Sylvia’s 1957 pop classic “Love Is Strange.”

Alabama were the night’s big winners. The quartet took entertainer of the year for the third year in a row, becoming the first three-time winners in the category’s history. Alabama took group of the year for the fourth year in a row and album of the year for the second time in three years with The Closer You Get…

“The Wind Beneath My Wings” (written by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar) won song of the year. The song had been a big hit (No. 4 on Hot Country Songs) for Gary Morris. In 1988, Bette Midler recorded the song for the movie Beaches. Her version reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1989. “Wind” went on to take record and song of the year at the Grammys in February 1990. It is, to this day, the only song to win song of the year at the Grammys, the ACMs and the CMAs.

Author: Paul Grein

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