Published on February 4th, 2014 | by Gerry Galipault0
Five Songs with … Kenny Rogers
This is the first of what we hope will be a regular Pause & Play feature, offering artists a chance to give anecdotes and their gut reactions to five key songs in their career.
Up first is Kenny Rogers.
The former New Christy Minstrels member formed The First Edition in 1967 and had a Top 5 hit right out of the gate: 1968’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” More hits followed, until Rogers went solo in 1973. Times were lean until along came “Lucille” in 1977. It sold more than a million copies and earned him the first of several Grammy Awards.
From there, it was a career full of hits (he was one of the biggest selling artists of the 1980s), plus several successful “Gambler” TV movies.
FIVE SONGS …
1) “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” (1968)
Rogers: “That was a weird one for us, because it was kind of psychedelic. But it was exciting for me because I went to high school with Mickey Newbury, who wrote it, and we played together in New Christy Minstrels. He played it for me and I told him I thought it’d be a great song to do, but he said he had already promised it for Sammy Davis Jr., of all people. For some reason, that didn’t work out, so we ended up doing it.”
2) “Lucille” (1977)
Rogers: “We were in the middle of recording songs for that album and (producer) Larry Butler found ‘Lucille,’ which was written by Roger Bowling and Hal Bynum. We wanted to do songs with value to them, and this had a classic story to it. This guy loved his wife but he knew something was going on and he was angry she left him ‘with four hungry children and a crop in the field.’ It still gets a strong reaction today because it’s a universal theme.”
3) “The Gambler” (1978)
Rogers: “That was a career-building song. Don Schlitz wrote it, and what’s funny is that he’s never been a gambler. In fact, the song’s not about gambling, it’s a metaphor for life and picking yourself up. He just happened to hear that line when he was walking down the street one day and it stuck with him. It was brilliant.”
4) “Islands in the Stream,” with Dolly Parton (1983)
Rogers: “Barry Gibb, who was producing my first album for RCA, wrote it with his brothers and originally planned it for Marvin Gaye but later offered it to me. I sang it by myself around the house for like four days, and I told Barry, ‘You know, I don’t like it. It’s missing something.’ He said, ‘We need Dolly.’ Someone in the studio said, ‘I just saw Dolly downstairs in a coffee shop,’ so he went down and got her. The rest is history. It began a 30-year friendship with Dolly, and I’m so thrilled with the success of the song.”
5) “We Are the World,” USA For Africa (1985)
Rogers: “It was a great opportunity to be around so many great artists and getting together for a great cause. Lionel Richie and I shared the same manager, Ken Kragen. When I heard about the project, I offered them my recording studio for the pre- and post-recording sessions, but I never expected to be invited to sing on it. I was just so flattered they asked … I walked in there and there were so many big names, I’m wondering, ‘Do I belong in here?’ I ended up getting everyone’s autographs that night. I couldn’t help myself.”