RIP Kenny Rogers. The man, the myth, the legend... passed away at the age of 81. In 1978, at the age of 40 years old, Rogers struck gold with the #1 hit "The Gambler". The song and album thrust him into the highest echelon's of stardom.
Rogers also recorded duets with numerous other singers and sat in with numerous country and rock bands. Heck, Roger even once sat in with hippie jamband, Phish, at the Bonnaroo music festival.
In 1983, Rogers and his dear friend, Dolly Parton, teamed up for a #1 smash hit with "Islands in the Stream". The song has an interesting backstory and written by the Bee Gees. The Aussie disco group originally wrote it for Marvin Gaye. Rogers and Parton slightly changed the tempo and it became a #1 hit.
Rogers, originally from Houston, paid his dues as a musician. He played in a jazz band and later a psychedelic rock group before he found success with Kenny Rogers and the First Edition in the late 1960s with the hit song "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)". You probably recognized it from the bowling dream sequence in "The Big Lebowski".
When the First Edition broke up, Rogers followed his own path and embarked on a solo career. He was not solo for too long before he stumbled upon the song that would change his life.
"The Gambler" is written by Don Schlitz, who was 23 at the time he penned the song about a traveler meeting a down on his luck gambler.
Schlitz later on penned songs for Randy Travis, Garth Brook, George Strait, Reba McEntire, the Judds, and Oak Ridge Boys.
In 1978, both Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers recorded Schlitz's song. Cash's song has a very-Johnny Cash vibe to his version. However, Rogers hit a home run with his rendition of "The Gambler". At the height of the disco era, the catchy song made the entire world a country fan for a hot minute as "The Gambler" became a hit record for Rogers.
Rogers later parlayed his singing fame into an actor career. He appeared in several Hollywood films, including a race car driver in "Six Pack", along with numerous made-for-TV westerns about the character in his iconic song.
Rogers made a cameo in The Eagles documentary a few years back. Apparently, he's responsible for being the guy who gave Don Henley is big break in show business. At the time Henley played drums in a band in Texas called Shiloh and Rogers signed Henley to his label. The band did not work out, but Henley stuck around Los Angeles to become a drummer in Linda Rondstat's band. That's where Henley met Glenn Frey. The too became fast friends and started a new band called the Eagles. The rest is history.
The poker world has a special affinity for Rogers because of "The Gambler". Everyone knows the chorus. I mean, everyone... even if they do not gamble or play poker or even like country music.
Very few songs can truly penetrate the global bubble, but Kenny Rogers with his version of "The Gambler" is one of those truly rare songs that achieved universal love and acclaim.
'The Gambler' by Kenny Rogers
Heck, a couple thousand years from now, "The Gambler" is going to be pumped into the soundsystem on a casino in the outer reaches of the universe and a grey alien from Zeta Reticulm will be humming along to the lyrics.