by Michael P Coleman

Entertainment legend Kenny Rogers died Friday night at 81 of natural causes. To paraphrase one of his signature hits, “The Gambler,” the best I can hope for is that he died in his sleep.

Rogers started his professional career in the 1950s, gaining notoriety with a couple of groups and a handful of modest hits before striking gold — and platinum — as a solo artist, first with “Lucille” in 1977 and “The Gambler” the next year.

That’s when I found him, after my mother sent me to a suburban Detroit record store to pick up a record that she thought was called “Know When To Hold ‘Em.” She could only remember the artist’s first name, having heard the song on the radio.

Mom insisted that the hit record would be easy to find. Rogers was, she was certain, the only African American guy other than Charley Pride who was singing country music on the radio.

The record store owner chuckled at that as he handed me a copy of “The Gambler” on 45.

Rogers roared when I got to tell him the story, during my 2015 interview with the legend.

“Boy, was she shocked,” Rogers laughed during that interview. The next week, when I met him backstage, he turned the tables by posing a question to me:

“Did you bring your mother,” Rogers asked. “I have to meet her!”

Rogers wasn’t just the brilliant vocalist behind hits that defied genre and introduced country music to unfamiliar ears — songs like “Lady,” “She Believes In Me,” and “Through The Years.” He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. Between interviews with the Associated Press and National Public Radio, the legend who had sold millions of records and been awarded three Grammies gave a freelance writer in Sacramento a few minutes of his time, to help him fulfill an assignment.

And this writer will never forget it.

Read MPC’s full story here.

Mike Coleman headshotonly nologo 300

Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP



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