Kenny Rogers Interview: Legend Dishes on New Book, Retirement and Duet With George Jones
The facts are staggering: Kenny Rogers has recorded more than 65 albums, which have sold more than 120 million units worldwide, ranking him #8 on the R.I.A.A.’s list of top-selling male artists of all time. However, it is the song titles that people will remember forever.
Country fan or not, you probably know names like ‘Through The Years,’ ‘Lady,’ ‘Lucille,’ ‘Islands in the Stream,’ ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,’ ‘You Decorated My Life,’ ‘She Believes in Me’ and ‘The Gambler.’ These unforgettable songs have been embedded into the Great American Songbook.
At 74, Rogers has now decided to step back, reflect, and share his ‘lucky life’ in his new book, Luck or Something Like It. Taste of Country had the chance to enjoy an exclusive conversation with the entertainment icon, who has charted a record within each of the last seven decades and picked up countless awards along the way — including three Grammys, 18 American Music Awards and five CMA trophies.
ToC: Why did you name the book Luck or Something Like It?
Kenny Rogers: There was a big record several years ago called ‘Love or Something Like It’ and we started looking at my career and realized how lucky I was to have been at Point A and available to go to Point B, be at Point B when opportunity C arose, and it really is an amazingly lucky career. I never really wanted to do an autobiography, cause I don’t want to do something where someone can say, ‘Well, that’s not how that happened.’ I don’t claim to have an exact memory. So I said, ‘I will do something and talk about my life and how it unfolded, and if that has a value, then let’s do it!’
What’s the funniest moment you share in the book?
I think there’s one with one of my ex-wives, where we were on a frozen road in Lake Tahoe, and I thought I was gonna go over the edge of the road, and then I tell her to jump out, she jumps out and she’s holding onto the car and I think she’s trying to save me, and at some point along the way she yells, ‘Throw me my mink!’ So I knew it wasn’t me she was trying to save.
What was the hardest story you shared in the book?
Talking about when my mom died. She was in a coma for seven years. I was very successful at the time, so I could afford to do it, I don’t know if it was the right thing or not, but I kept her on life support. She was my rock and she was my anchor, that was a very tough time for the whole family, but she finally passed away. You start conjuring up those memories and that was awfully painful.
What do you hope people take away from reading your book?
How lucky I am, and what a great life I’ve had, and how happy I am now. Wanda and I have been together 20 years, married 15 years, and I have identical twins who are 8 years old and two grown kids that I’m really proud of. You have to sit back sometimes and just take a look at your life, and say, ‘What would I do differently?’ And I talk about in there, about there’s a fine line about being driven and being selfish. I think I was selfish at certain points in my life, which probably hurt my marriages, and so I accept that burden, but I have to move on.
We were excited to hear that you’re in the process of recording new music for Warner Brothers. How is that coming along?
I’m working with Dan Huff, the same guy who did my album ‘Water and Bridges,’ which is one of my favorite albums I’ve ever done. He’s such a great producer and we’re very excited about these songs. I tend to pick special songs, I think that’s what’s been the key to my success. I actually wanted to do an album called ‘More Than Just a Song’, cause I like doing songs that some sort of social significance or social importance.
You’ve had a lot of successful duets in your career. Are there any young singers of today that you’d like to record a duet with?
Well I’m doing a duet with George Jones, is that young enough for you? [laughs]. It was really sweet, he asked me if I would do it. I’m very excited about doing it. He’s one of my favorites. You know, when I first got into country music that was the base of country music — George Jones, Merle Haggard and all those guys, and I loved that period in country. But as far as some of the young guys go, I like a bunch of those kids that are out there, and I would love to do a duet if it’s the right song to do.
A lot of your peers have retired or announced farewell tours. At the age of 74, do you think you’ll retire soon?
I go til I quit. The thought of retiring bothers me because I’m a person who has to have something to do, and I think that when you retire you end up with nothing to do. It scares me more than anything. That’s why when I go out and do my shows, I do my photography, because when I’m out on the road I need something to do. I can’t just sit around all day. I do that at home a few days here, and then I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go do something different.