I first encountered Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler” when my high school history teacher wrote the lyrics in the back of my junior yearbook. Like any words of wisdom delivered to a 16-year-old, his message was met with a bewildered “Huh?” before quickly dissolving into a mental sea of fast-food cravings and Blink-182 bass tabs; I was oblivious to the value and significance of the Gambler’s words.
Rogers’s solo career was launched by the song “Lucille,” a Billboard Country Chart topper that gave the singer some much needed traction after the breakup of The First Edition, with whom Rogers enjoyed a reasonably successful 10-year run. In regard to knowing when to run, however, Rogers’s career has been more of a marathon than a sprint. Not only was he voted America’s favorite singer of all time (in a 1986 joint poll by USA Today and People Magazine); his appearance on The Muppet Show in 1979 remains one of the show’s finest musical moments.
Puppet show appearances aside, though, Rogers’s résumé includes some serious accolades: countless AMAs and CMAs, multiple Grammy Awards, $130 million in record sales, and a critically acclaimed performance in the 1980 television special Kenny Rogers as The Gambler. Rogers’s legacy is, no doubt, cemented in his work ethic, exemplified by the length and breadth of a career that’s spanned nearly 60 years, 30 number one singles, 32 studio albums, and more than two dozen acting roles. A vast and extensive repertoire has both obliged and provided Rogers with the opportunity to be relatively versatile, making it no coincidence that he is, by and large, credited with bridging the gap between country and pop music charts — something that most modern tank-topped country stars still fail to do.
There are few songs that have proved as transcendent as “The Gambler,” and that’s a credit to Rogers. The Gambler’s wisdom has been heeded since the song’s release in 1978 because we, collectively, believe in Rogers. It’s a trust born of a 50-year-long relationship.
Kenny Rogers plays Chumash Casino Resort (3400 E. Highway 246, Santa Ynez) on Thursday, March 20, at 8 p.m. Call (800) 248-6274 or visit chumashcasino.com for tickets and info.