I woke up this morning to the news that country and pop music legend Kenny Rogers has passed. Living amongst the Coronavirus outbreak and its attending social chaos, you might think this morning’s news is a minor blip on my attention. But you’d be wrong.
The passing of Kenny Rogers has heavy significance for me.
Just a couple of days ago, I remarked to my son how some people die and you forget about them almost instantly. They left no indelible imprint on you. Yet others go and you think about them on a regular basis.
An older lady and friend of the family, Susan, passed some years back. She had a hard life, and was so hard on herself, for having had an abortion many years ago. She just couldn’t forgive herself.
People would make fun of her, and roll their eyes at the way she often behaved. I used to get frustrated with her, which I’m not proud of. Yet once she passed, something about the childlike sweetness she maintained throughout her life stayed with me; and stayed with others who disrespected or minimized her in life. I’m sorry for my impatience and that I wasn’t more of a help to you, Susan. I’m sure I speak for others too. We miss you!
Likewise, Kenny Rogers’ music touched me in a powerful way, and I know it too will stay with me.
Kenny Rogers was first and foremost, a storyteller. As far as I know, he did not write his own songs, but he had an amazing knack of finding great songs that tell a story and make an emotional connection.
In a genre of music (country) that too often fails to venture out of the “crying in your beer” category (older), or “trying to keep up with pop music” sappy love songs and flash (newer), Kenny Rogers represented what made country music great—storytelling!
Just listen to a song like Rogers’ signature The Gambler. Play it and see how he lays out a scene that you can just SEE in front of you! (I’m purposely NOT linking to songs with visuals, as they are totally unnecessary and distracting) And the song imparts some real wisdom from someone you may least expect to hear it from—a gambler! It’s a true classic and should be studied by every wannabe singer/songwriter who comes to Nashville.
Lucille and More
As much as I love The Gambler, it’s not my favorite Kenny Rogers song. That honor goes to Lucille, which was his first major hit. Like The Gamber, Lucille is all about STORY. You can clearly see the heartbreaking tale of a man losing his wife via her selfishness; and the storyteller’s flash of conscience in the concluding verse.
They just don’t make songs like this anymore, and THAT is the true loss of Kenny Rogers.
My heartbreak is the death of this core part of country music—the story—and how it affects the very soul of Nashville and our modern culture.
Something really important has been lost, but the potential silver lining in the social challenge Coronavirus has brought us, is perhaps a rekindling of meaningful human interaction as highlighted in our best art.
RIP, Kenny, I will truly miss the humanity you imparted through your songs. I pray that the flame will not go out; and that the torch is carried on. We need it now more than ever.
Patrick Rooney is the Founder of OldSchoolUs.com. Its focus is natural health and independent living. Patrick is the author of GREEK PHYSIQUE: The Simple, Satisfying Way to Sculpt Your Body—Even if You’re Old, Weak, or Broken Down; and is also the creator of Greek Yoga™ and the Greek Yoga for Beginners video. He offers health and fitness consulting in-person in Middle Tennessee and worldwide via phone, Zoom, and Skype. To reach Patrick, email him at [email protected].