Monday, 23 March 2020

My Top Ten Kenny Rogers Songs

Being that I was brought up (musically, at least) by Terry Wogan, Kenny Rogers was an ever-present figure in my childhood. By the time I became properly aware of him, his best years were over. In the late 70s, he switched from hard-bitten country storytelling to schmaltzy silver-bearded fox. It was a financially astute move, but creatively his early years are where it's at, particularly his time with The First Edition.

Here's ten of his best... the Top Five are, for my money, indisputable.

10. Making Music For Money

We'll start with the ironic one, bearing in mind what I said above...

My agent he just called me
And told me what I should be
If I would make my music for money
Instead of making music for me

He said that people only buy the love songs.
Rock and roll is not too long
He said son you got to be commerical
If you want to turn the people on.

And I said turning on the people
Now that's a beautiful place to be
But if I spend my time makin' memorable rhyme
Well who's gonna turn on me?

I said I know that this may sound funny
But money don't mean nothin' to me
I won't make my music for money, no
I'm gonna make my music for me

To be fair, this was a Jimmy Buffet song first... and I guess Jimmy practice what he preached.

9. Lady

Kenny, on the other hand, starting making multi-million selling songs like this... which I have a shameless fondness for, despite its shovelfuls of schmaltz. Terry played this one quite a bit.

8. Elvira

This, on the other hand, is more like it. With the First Edition, it gleefully rhymes the titular lady with "my heart's on fire-a"... and then throws in some giddy ups and hi ho silvers for good measure.

Sam likes this one.

7. Reuben James

Tackling Southern racism and professing love for the "no-account, sharecropping coloured man"... the First Edition had no fear.

6. Islands In The Stream 

With Dolly, obviously. Maybe this one's been ruined for you by bad karaoke and Rob Brydon. If not... it's a peerless country ballad, written by the Bee Gees... originally for Marvin Gaye! That's some pedigree.

5. Lucille

Adultery and sorrow-drowning writ large...

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille
With four hungry children and a crop in the field
I've had some bad times, lived through some sad times
But this time your hurting won't heal
You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille

4. Coward of the County

A complete revenge Western in a 4 minute pop song.

You could've heard a pin drop when Tommy stopped and locked the door...

They even made a movie out of it!

3. The Gambler

You've got to know when to hold them
Know when to fold them

I guess if ever there was a time to fold them, Kenny, it's right now.

2. Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town

You've painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The shadows on the wall tell me the sun is going down
Oh Ruby, don't take your love to town

Heartbreak in a can.

1. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)

Because The Dude abides.

And somewhere in the darkness
The gambler, he broke even
But in his final words
I found an ace that I could keep.


  1. For me, one of those artists that you don't realise how many of their songs you like until you sit down and make a list. Or read someone else's list, in this case :)

  2. Glad I called your top three correct

  3. Wrote about Ruby over at my place right at the start of the year. Kenny had a wonderful understated way of singing and I love the little facial nuances that artists like him put into their performance, that you only pick up on when you see them close up on telly. As you say, if it was this time, he picked a fine time to fold 'em.


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