This week, we at The 615 look back on the legendary career of Kenny Rogers. As the Country Music Hall of Fame inductee prepares to release “You Can’t Make Old Friends” for Warner Brothers on Tuesday (Oct. 8), we highlight his career with a three-part series. Today, we analyze the Top Ten Billboard Country hits of Rogers’ career. With over 20 chart-toppers to his credit, the Houston native has released some of the most identifiable hit records in the history of the genre……Let’s look back:
10. Morning Desire
Released in October 1985, this Dave Loggins-written track became one of the most played country records of 1986. Rogers premiered the video on the CMA Awards in November, and the track featured an unforgettable guitar solo from Stanley Jordan. The song was one of two country chart-toppers for Rogers that was produced by the legendary George Martin.
9. Buy Me A Rose
It had been 13 years since Rogers had enjoyed a No. 1 hit, but this stark performance with pristine harmonies from Alison Krauss and Billy Dean returned him to the top of the country charts in May of 2000. The song also was his first Top-40 showing on the Hot 100 since “This Woman” in 1984. It was his only No. 1 on Dreamcatcher, his own label.
8. You Decorated My Life
One of the most romantic records of Rogers’ career, this heartfelt ballad from the pen of Debbie Hupp and Bob Morrison topped the charts in November 1979, and also peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100.
7. I Don’t Need You
From his 1981 Liberty release, “Share Your Love,” this was Rogers’ second No. 1 to be produced by Lionel Richie – following 1980’s “Lady.” Richie brought out some considerable star power for the album, as Michael Jackson sang harmony on “Goin’ Back To Alabama,” from the disc.
6. She Believes In Me
His second solo single to be certified Gold, the track not only topped the country list for two weeks in 1979, but also hit the pinnacle of the Adult Contemporary charts, as well. It was his second chart-topper from his landmark “The Gambler” album.
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5. Every Time Two Fools Collide
It almost sounds like one of those stories that a publicist made up, but it was very much the truth. Rogers showed up for a recording session, as Dottie West was running over. The pair spoke of recording together at some point, when it was suggested that Rogers try his hand at this song – written by Jan Dyer and Jeff Tweel. He did, and the rest included a pair of CMA Awards for Vocal Duo of the Year – and a friendship that lasted until West’s death in 1991.
When producer Larry Butler found this song for Rogers, he liked it – but was a little unsure that he could pull it off. Reportedly, he told Butler that he thought it might have been “too country” for him. Thankfully, the producer won the argument – as the song became a signature tune for Rogers – and became his very first No. 1 country song.
3. Islands In The Stream
Rogers had just signed to RCA Records, and was working with the Bee Gees on his first album for the label in Miami. He had tried recording this song a few times, and was starting to get a little bored with it. Someone in the studio suggested that it needed someone like Dolly Parton. Manager Ken Kragen began the task of trying to find Parton’s whereabouts. As it turned out, she was just a few miles down the road at the time. It was a fortuitous twist of fate, as the song became the biggest selling record of both artists’ career – topping the country singles chart for two weeks – as well as the Hot 100.
2. Coward Of The County
One of two Rogers records to top the Billboard Country Singles chart for three weeks, this story song was the very first No. 1 song of the 1980s. Rogers was such a hot commodity by this time that the record hit No. 3 on the Hot 100 – in spite of it being one of his more traditional country-laced productions. The song also provided Rogers with another television role as he starred in the TV-movie adaptation of the song as Rev. Matthew Spencer – the uncle of the song’s hero, Tommy.
1. The Gambler
In the past 35 years, there have not been many interviews with Rogers that have gone by without a reference to this 1978 Don Schlitz classic. While Rogers’ version is the definitive version, the song was also recorded by Johnny Cash, and Rogers’ fellow 2013 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, Bobby Bare. The song also served as the basis for a very successful string of TV – movies on CBS and NBC beginning in 1980.