Kenny Rogers on Country Music: ‘There’s No Other Music That’s That Honest’
On Sunday, (October 27) Kenny Rogers will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and he couldn’t be happier to share the experience with his family.
“I’m so glad it’s happening now rather than at the peak of my success because I’m not sure I could have appreciated it as much then,” he told Radio.com. “Hits come and go but the Hall of Fame is forever. There’s only 130 people in there. That’s pretty rare air.”
Alongside Rogers at this weekend’s celebration in Nashville will be his wife and nine-year-old twin sons as well as his brothers and sisters and two older sons. His family is important to him and when discussing “You Had to Be There,” a track on his latest album You Can’t Make Old Friends, he said it’s a song that struck a chord with him personally. A somber tale about a misguided child who winds up in jail after his father abandoned him years before, Rogers took the song to heart upon first listen.
“There’s a fine line between being driven and being selfish. When you want success so bad that you become selfish. I think I really hurt some of my earlier marriages because I was so driven and I don’t want to do that in this case,” he said. “I really want to be there for my boys. The song touched me because I hadn’t been there for my two older sons.”
In addition to story songs of love and family comes title track, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” which features Dolly Parton. She is not only a collaborator on the song, but someone Rogers calls a great example of an old friend.
“Thirty years ago this year we had ‘Islands in the Stream.’ This is the first time in 10, 15 years we had even seen each other. It was great to go back into the studio with her,” he said.
Rogers first met Parton when he and his band at the time, the First Edition, performed on her television show, Dolly. Their paths crossed again some time later while Rogers was in the studio recording “Islands In the Stream.”
“I had sung that song for four days. I finally just said [to producer Barry Gibb], ‘Barry I don’t even like this song anymore.’ And he said, ‘We need Dolly Parton.’”
It just so happened that his manager saw Parton at the studio minutes earlier and went to find her. It was that day that the two began their lifelong friendship.
“The moment she came in the studio the song just took on a whole different life. That’s how we met and became friends. It was an instant friendship because she is so open and I like to think I am as well,” he said. “I love the fact that whatever she thinks she says and it’s so disarming when you’re with someone like that. I’ve always appreciated that about her.”
While he has dabbled in several genres over the years, Rogers said it’s always been country music that has translated most to him.
“I’m a country singer whose had a lot of other influences and I think that’s why I did songs like ‘She Believes In Me,’ ‘You Decorated My Life,’ ‘Buy Me a Rose,’ because coming from jazz I had that experience of singing that kind of music,” he said. “Country music wasn’t big in New Jersey and up in this area until I started doing songs like ‘Through the Years’ and ‘She Believes in Me’ and I think they saw something in country music they liked. Country music is really the white man’s rhythm and blues. It’s where all the pain is. Once you get to country you can’t go back because there’s no other music that’s that honest.”
The soon to be inducted Country Music Hall of Fame member continues to look back on his career fondly.
“I’m always amazed at how well I’ve done and how long I’ve been able to do it. I don’t take that for granted. You have to really want to do this to do it as long as I’ve done it.”
Kenny Rogers’ new album, You Can’t Make Old Friends, is available everywhere.