If a person was to go to research country music over the last 60 years, the one name that would continuously pop up as a pioneer in country music would be Kenny Rogers. Kenny’s unique raspy voice, his charming good looks, his witty personality, and his varied range of talent in all aspects of entertainment sets him apart from the others, and makes him an entertainers entertainer.
Beginning his career in the mid 1950’s with a band called The Scholars, Kenny’s career did not begin as a singer. Playing in the band he eventually moved forward to the front of the stage to establish his own band, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, and by the late ’60s was racking up hits such as “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” and “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”. In the late ’70s, Kenny struck out on his own launching what would prove to be a huge solo career garnering him with more than 120 hit singles, albums topping the charts for more than 200 weeks, and sales of more than 100 million records worldwide. As a solo artist and as one of the leading duet partners in country music, Kenny continued to acquire award after award for years to come, ultimately being awarded the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Country Music Association, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
Kenny has one of those voices that amasses fans everywhere he goes, including those from other genres. Kenny’s ability to cross over into unchartered waters from Country to Pop, when there were clearly lines between the two at the time, set a precedent that would allow other country musicians to follow to this very day. One of Kenny’s most memorable cross over moments recently just celebrated a 30 year anniversary; the “We Are The World” song and video. This particular project was a collective effort of artists from all over the nation to gather to bring a voice for those in need during the 1980’s. To this very day seeing this video and hearing this song, touches our hearts. I am happy to report as well that this project still continues to raise month to help those in need. Kenny’s ability to straddle both genres is a feat that not easily accomplished, and whether it was Michael Jackson back in the 1980’s or his recent performance with Phish at the 2012 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Kenny’s ability to bridge these genres, bridge these generations, and bridge continents bringing his music to those that love him never ceases to amaze me, once again demonstrating that music is a universal language.
I recently saw Kenny Rogers on “The Big Interview” with Dan Rather, and was once again blown away by yet another talent that Kenny possesses. Over the years Kenny has had the ability to fine tune his camera skills and has become one fine photographer. In 1987, Kenny Rogers published a collection of photographs featuring some of the days biggest names in the entertainment business; Michael Jackson, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Ray Charles to name a few. During this interview he spoke of how he shot it all in black and white, and how his friends agreed to the shoot because he promised to shoot one role of film only. If he got it (the photo), he got it. If not, than that was it. To see some of these photos, I am absolutely in awe. Kenny has the eye my friends. The collection, titled “Your Friends and Mine “, showcased Kenny’s ability to capture the feelings or another human being in one still moment. His use of black and white was classic, and his use of lighting for the subjects, spot on. My adoration for the man and his talent just grew tenfold.
The one thing I’ve learned about Kenny, he loves to wear many hats, and try many new ventures, and for each one he attempts, he nails it. Whether it is songwriting, performing, producing, engineering, photography, or acting, Kenny’s ambition to satisfy his creative outlet becomes our prize.
As Kenny took the stage at the Turning Stone his stage presence and witty personality had the audience eating out of his hand the moment he walked out there. I absolutely loved Kenny’s ability to laugh at life and himself. Recently making a commercial for Geico, as the commercial played on the screen behind him, he teased the audience about his role as The Gambler singing “Know When To Fold Them”, and this jesting continued throughout the evening. It is this lighthearted attitude coupled with his ability to reach out and touch his audience on a personal level that makes him a legend.
Joined this evening by the lovely and extremely talented Linda Davis, Kenny is known as one of the most sought after duet partners being paired in the past with Dottie West, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Sheena Easton, Kim Carnes, and Juice Newton to name a few. As he brought Linda out to join him, his ability to harmonize with anyone and everyone astounds me, and the collaboration was a perfect match.
Linda Davis has been involved in country music since the 1980’s and she herself has won a Grammy together with Reba McEntire on the hit song, “Does He Love You”. As she sang, her angelic voice carried throughout the venue touching everyone’s soul, while her smile brought those to each and every one of us sitting there taking in her performance. She herself shared her excitement with the upcoming holiday celebrations as she was spending the first Christmas with her new grand baby, daughter of Lady Antebellum’s lead singer, Hillary Scott. This lovely lady, by no means Kenny pointed out, looked like any grandmother he had ever encountered.
This show was an amazing mix of both the celebration of the holidays and the celebration of Kenny’s life long career of hits. Even though he may be the Gambler on-screen, taking in one of his shows is what I would call a sure bet, as there is no gamble involved when taking the time to come see Kenny Rogers in concert at The Turning Stone.