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Dolly Parton pays tribute to late friend Kenny Rogers: ‘I Will Always Love You’

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Dolly Parton took to social media on Saturday morning to emotionally pay tribute to her late friend and fellow country star, Kenny Rogers.

"You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone," Parton captioned a video she posted to social media. "I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend. So you be safe with God and just know that I will always love you, dolly."

In the video, Parton sits at the piano, holding a framed picture of the pair that she displays in her home. "Well, I couldn't believe it when I got up this morning and turned on the TV...and they told me that my friend and singing partner Kenny Rogers had passed away," she says. "I know that we all know that Kenny's in a better place than we are today, but I'm sure that he's gonna be talking to God sometime today, if he ain't already, and he's gonna be asking him to spread some light on a bunch of this darkness going on here."

"I loved Kenny with all my heart, and my heart's broken. A big ol' chunk of it has gone with him today," Parton continues, growing emotional as she holds up the picture. "I think I can speak for all his family, his friends and fans when I say that I will always love you.... God bless you, Kenny, fly high, straight to the arms of God."

The decades-long friendship between the pair included their mega-hit 1982 duet, "Islands in the Stream." In his final interview with ET, Rogers credited the duet as the highlight of his career.

“I don’t know how you can do that and not have it be the most exciting thing that ever happened to you,” he told ET in April 2018. “When Dolly [Parton] likes you, then no matter what she says -- because she doesn’t think about what she’s saying -- it comes from love. And if you take it that way, you can’t be offended by it.”

Rogers died on Friday of natural causes at the age of 81, his family announced on his website and social media platforms.

"In a career that spanned more than six decades, Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music. His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world. Chart-topping hits like 'The Gambler,' 'Lady,' 'Islands In The Stream,' 'Lucille,' 'She Believes In Me,' and 'Through the Years' are just a handful of Kenny Rogers' songs that have inspired generations of artists and fans alike," the statement shared.

The family added that they are currently planning a small private service "out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency." However, they "look forward to celebrating Kenny’s life publicly with his friends and fans at a later date."

See more on Rogers' life and legacy in the video below.

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