Dionne & Dolly would be the perfect stage name for a country-soul duo made up of Dionne Warwick and Dolly Parton — a version of which isn’t too far off in the future. During a recent appearance on the Tamron Hall Show, Warwick revealed that she and Parton have recorded a gospel duet titled “Peace Like a River,” set for release later this month.
“She sent me a song that she wanted me to record and I said, ‘OK, that sounds like a deal,’” Warwick recalled of the collaboration’s origins. “She’s such a sweetheart, I know her. She sent me another song — the one that we’re going to be doing as a duet — it’s a gospel song called ‘Peace Like a River.’ She wrote it and I’m very excited about this.”
The 82-year-old singer added: “I’ve done so many duets over the years, but this one’s going to be really special.” Earlier in the conversation, during which she was joined by her son Damon Elliott, Warwick celebrated the power of song. “Music is joy,” she said. “And when you can put a smile on people’s faces — and I’ve been told how many smiles I’ve put on people’s faces — to be that part of people’s lives, it’s incredible. It’s overwhelming sometimes.”
The way Warwick sees it, her connection to the 76-year-old country icon was preordained. In 1992, her cousin Whitney Houston recorded a spotlight-claiming rendition of Parton’s 1974 ballad “I Will Always Love You” for the film The Bodyguard.
Bringing in 2023 as co-host of the NBC special Miley’s New Year’s Eve Party, Parton performed another unexpected duet with her goddaughter Miley Cyrus. Just before midnight, she seamlessly transitioned from the singer’s 2013 hit “Wrecking Ball” into her own “I Will Always Love You.”
When she stopped by the Kelly Clarkson Show in December, Parton recalled the first time she heard Houston’s stellar rendition of the song. “When they were doing The Bodyguard movie, they had chosen another song for the theme song and someone came out with that very song right when they were about to put the movie out,” she said, remembering the phone call she received asking if “I Will Always Love You” could be used in its place. She happily obliged, but didn’t hear anything else about whether they moved forward with the idea.
“I was driving my car from downtown to where my office was, on 16th Avenue [in Nashville], back to my house over in Brentwood, and I was just driving along and I had the radio on,” Parton recalled. “And I just heard this, ‘If I should stay.’ It’s one of those things, like a dog hearing a whistle. And that’s the first time. They hadn’t sent it to me, they did nothing. I heard it on the radio.”
Parton added: “When it went into ‘And I…’, it’s like I just freaked out. I had to pull over to the side because I honestly thought I was gonna wreck.”