Kenny Rogers, legendary country singer, died Friday at the age of 81, it has been announced. His family said he died of natural causes at a hospice and surrounded with his family.
Yes, this isn’t a Rangers or baseball related topic, but there’s no baseball out there right now, and Kenny Rogers (the singer) is a pretty big deal. It was also the subject of much humor when Kenny Rogers (the pitcher) came up in the Rangers’ system and made his various departures and returns, and was the source of his nickname “The Gambler,” which is an official nickname for the pitcher since it is on his Baseball Reference page.
The singer was huge during the time period I was growing up, and there’s a Rangers connection between Rogers and my early years as a fan. The Rangers used to be broadcast on WBAP 820, a 50,000 watt AM station that played country music when it wasn’t airing Rangers games (and then Mavericks games). As a kid, I would have WBAP constantly playing on my clock radio in my room so I could hear the Rangers game when I was going to sleep at night. That meant I heard country music the rest of the time...and in the late 70s and early 80s, that meant I heard a lot of Kenny Rogers.
Kenny Rogers was big when Urban Cowboy hit the movie screens and country music started going mainstream. He wasn’t just a country music star — he had two Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles with “Lady” and his duet with Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream,” and 9 top 10 charting singles on the Hot 100 overall. Rogers also had 22 top 10 singles on the Adult Contemporary charts, including 8 #1 hits, as well as a pair of duets with mainstream singers that hit #2 on the Adult Contemporary charts, “We’ve Got Tonight” with Sheena Easton and “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” with Kim Carnes.
So I heard a lot of Kenny Rogers growing up by virtue of being a Rangers fan, and Kenny Rogers was able to cross over and appeal to people who didn’t necessarily listen to country music.
While “The Gambler” is the song he’s most known for, my favorite growing up was “The Coward of the County,” even though I thought that the lyrics were “The torn dress, the shattered duck,” and assumed that the Gatlin Boys had ruined the bird Becky was roasting for dinner.