AUSTRALIA - KENNY ROGERS ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
“ Islands in the stream/ that is what we are/ no one in between/ how can we be wrong/ sail away with me/ to another world/ and we rely on each other/ from one lover to another.” - Islands In The Stream - Maurice Ernest Gibb-Robin Hugh Gibb-Barry Alan Gibb.
When Texas born singing actor and entrepreneur Kenny Rogers died at 81 on March 21 at his Georgia home hospice with his family he left behind a huge legacy in Australia.
Rogers toured here many times as a solo artist and with fellow singing actors Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.
His first visit was in 1973 with his embryonic band The First Edition.
Rogers toured here with Dolly in 1984 and 1987 and Reba in 1998.
He also returned as a solo performer in 2008, 2011, 2012 and January 2015.
In 1987 the singer embraced the Lucky Country with games of tennis, and he took home koala and kangaroo souvenirs.
On his final Australia and New Zealand tour he said they were two of his favourite places.
“For all of the travelling I've done around the world, Australia and New Zealand remain two of my favourite places to perform,” Rogers revealed on his final tour.
“When I was with the First Edition , we made this same trip several times, and no matter how many times I've gone, I've always loved the audiences Down Under.
“They have a great sense of humour, and they've always treated me with such great respect, so for that, I say thank you.”
Rogers music was also a lifeline for Beaconsfield miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb.
Rescuers found the dynamic duo more than a kilometre underground when they heard them singing Rogers hits The Gambler and Coward Of The County.
The songs earned healthy royalties for their writers Don Schlitz, Billy Ed Wheeler and Roger Bowling.
Rogers had 24 #1 hits and was a Country Music Hall of Fame member after he was inducted in 2013.
He received the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association in the same year.
Rogers was born in Houston, Texas, where he was fourth of eight children and played guitar as a young boy.
He was the first member of his family to graduate from high school.
His recording career began with Kenny Rogers and The First Edition , whose hits included the Mel Tillis-written song, Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town and Mickey Newbury tune Just Dropped In To See What Condition I Was In.
By the late 1970s, he had sold over $100 million worth of records.
Kenny and Dolly's many duets included their 1983 No. 1 hit Islands in the Stream – written by The Bee Gees.
Parton, now 74, said she couldn't believe the news of Rogers ' death when she was first told.
“They told me my friend and singing partner had passed away,” Parton revealed.
“My heart is broken and a big ol' chunk of it has gone with him today.”
In a video posted to Twitter a tearful Parton shared a picture of her and Kenny.
“You never know how much you love somebody until they're gone,” Parton said.
Rogers debuted on Nu Country TV in July 2006 and earned worthy tributes include a return to our show on April 11.
Below is our historic feature on Kenny's 61 st album Back To The Well that was released here by Shock Records in 2003 .
KENNY. HANK, LEFTY, WAYLON AND MARTY
“Old Hank was a drifter passing through/ he stayed long enough to cry the blues/ acquainted with the bottle/ he knew the good Lord too/ Hank was drifter passing through.” - Owe Them More Than That - Tony Martin-Roger Springer-Clessie Lee Jr. Morrissette-John Guess.
Rogers hired Alison Krauss to join him on his first single Love Like This from 61st album Back To The Well (Sanctuary-Shock.)
She previously sang with Rogers, then 61, and Billy Dean on Buy Me A Rose - his 22nd No 1 hit in 1999 on his Dream Catcher label.
That was after he charted with baseball song The Greatest .
This may not be the best song on the disc but it gave Rogers purist cred that goes with the territory.
The best is Owe Them More Than That with Tim McGraw.
It pays homage to deceased outlaws Hank, Lefty, Marty and Waylon who crossed over last century without selling out.
Ironically, fellow singing actor Tim McGraw cut Things Change - on the same subject - on sixth album Set This Circus Down.
Rogers ' movies and self-caricatures such as Kenny Rogers Roast Chicken came home to roost when he fell from the charts.
The Houston native started in a doo-wop act The Scholars and scored his first solo hit, That Crazy Feeling in 1958.
Jazz player Bobby Doyle took him on as a protege and Rogers spent a decade playing bass in his trio.
The New Christy Minstrels hired Rogers in the 1960s and he formed pop-rock band the First Edition with other ex- Minstrels in 1967.
Kenny Rogers & First Edition scored hits including the psychedelic Mickey Newbury tune Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).
He left First Edition in 1973 but scored with embryonic anti-war song Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town and Lucille.
727 EAST MAGNOLIA AVENUE
“You won't believe where I was today/ something made my car go a different way/ before I knew it/ I was back in time at our old address/ sitting in the drive/ and I could see you in my football jersey raking leaves/ I could see me hanging lights on our first Christmas tree/ I could see us nail those numbers on the door that afternoon/ at 727 East Magnolia Avenue.” - 727 East Magnolia Avenue - Bobby Tomberlin-Steven Jones-Steven Dale Jones
His Don Schlitz hit The Gambler inspired five telemovies in which he played male lead Brady Hawks.
He also hit with Lionel Richie's Lady and Bee Gees penned smash Islands In The Stream.
A swag of failed business ventures, phone sex scandal, divorce and liposuction didn't prevent him wedding fifth wife Wanda Miller in 1997.
He published several photography books while awaiting his chart return.
“But you have to hold on and have chicken restaurants and photography books and stuff to keep your name out there,'' Rogers revealed.
“And eventually, all things recycle. It's inevitable.''
Hopefully not the chooks whose feathers were ruffled when he leaped into a musical bed with Fugees member Wyclef Jean's Ecleftic - Two Sides of a Book, in a "dub-plate" interlude based on The Gambler.
Rapper Coolio also recorded a track with Rogers based on that 1978 smash.
"He wanted to do a rap song to inner-city kids telling them the dangers of gambling," Rogers said.
"I was very flattered and said I would love to be a part of it, but that I wanted to be careful that the language he used would not be offensive to anyone who knew me. He assured me it wouldn't, and he has since done this thing, and I think he did an incredible job."
So what about this album?
Well, there's plenty of fiddle, banjo, dobro and mandolin from the entrée title track through moody ballad Listen To The Rain and evocative gem East Magnolia Avenue.
Billy Kirsch-Steve Wariner's I'm Missing You seems a generic ballad but it's also a subtle anti-war song segueing into Mike Henderson-Craig Wiseman's vitriolic Harder Cards .
The eclecticism is accentuated by Alex Harvey's Suitcase Full Of Blues and Tears In God's Eyes.
There's also a bonus 32 track live disc to persuade you to taste Rogers rotisserie.