Over the course of his nearly six-decade career, Kenny Rogers has made millions of fans all over the world. However, there's one woman who stood firmly in his corner from day one: his mother Lucille.
The Country Music Hall of Fame member tells Billboard that he learned so much from his mother. "My mom had a third-grade education, but she had so much wisdom," he says. "I always say that I got my sense of humor from my father and my sense of values from my mother. She always knew how to say a lot in a few words -- many times illustrating a lesson or offering a way to look at life that was so valuable. She has been a source of strength for me throughout my life."
Back in the 1980s, Rogers wrote a poem for his mother, "How Long Has It Been?" He says it was his way of telling her how much she meant to him. "I just felt that it was something that most of us take for granted -- that our parents know how much we love them. I feel that sometimes it's important for you to say it -- that it can have much more value than just thinking about it. My mom was a very special lady and a very big part of my life and my success. I wanted to let her know that I cared about her at that level."
Though Lucille died in 1991, Rogers said he takes pride in the fact that she was able to witness much of his musical success -- both as a member of the First Edition in the 1960s, as well as his record-shattering solo success in the '70s and '80s. "It was huge because my dad saw my First Edition success, but he didn't see my individual success; my mom saw both. When I started doing really well, I bought my mom her own bus, and she had her own driver. She would call him and say, 'Alan, I'm ready to go!' and he would come down to Crockett, Texas, and pick her up. She could have probably done it in a car, but she just loved that bus. A lot of times it was just her on the bus with Alan at the wheel, but sometimes she would get some of her girlfriends together, and they'd go out with her for some of the tour. She would sit in the front row at my concerts and wave at me. I used to imitate her wave from the stage and would say jokingly, 'How would you like it if your mother waved like that?' She was a very sweet lady."
What if -- as in the case of Charley Benetto from the Mitch Albom book For One More Day -- Rogers could spend one last day with his mom? What would they do? He didn't hesitate. "I would take her fishing, because that was her whole life. When she was traveling around on the bus, she often would see a lake and even if she had to go over a fence to get there, she'd say, 'Alan, I want to fish in that lake.' When I had my place in Athens, Georgia, she used to come down and go fishing a lot, and she knew where all the fish were. Everybody else was trying…she was catching them. That would be a perfect day for my mom and me."
The singer also credits his mother with one of the best pieces of career advice he ever received. "She told me something one time that has sustained me through this business: 'Son, be happy where you are. Never be content to be there, but if you're not happy where you are, you will never be happy.' I thought that was such a great piece of advice. It has stuck with me, and because of that, I've always basically been very happy."
For the first time publicly -- just in time for Mother's Day this weekend -- enjoy this Billboard exclusive of How Long Has It Been?
How long has it been since you kissed your mother?
How long since you held her hand?
How long since you took the time and the trouble
To show her how straight you stand?
How long has it been since you've kissed her cheeks?
How long since you made her proud?
How long since you said, "I love you, Mom"
No, I mean out loud
You know, mothers must be made of iron
to watch their children grow
Then just when they seem to need them most,
they have to watch them go
Now take my mom as strong as she is,
I must have made her cry
How many times I could have hugged her,
but instead I passed her by
Maybe it's because I'm growing up,
maybe I don't know,
Or maybe it's the pains of parenthood
as I watch my children grow
I hope my children show their mom
how much they really care
For someday it's a proven fact,
their mother won't be there
And so the question of the day…
and don't just ask your brother
More important, ask yourself,
How long since you kissed your mother?
- Kenny Rogers