Amid wall-wall coronavirus news coverage this past weekend, I saw the sad news that Kenny Rogers died. Given the timing of his death, I’m a little sad he won’t probably get the star-studded treatment a country music star of his pedigree deserves. I’ll readily admit that I’m by no means a mega-Kenny fan, but he is someone who I have always been fond of. Here’s why:
1. I actually met him once and got his autograph!
I was in middle school and one of his sons started going to my school. One day I got up the courage when I saw him to ask him for his autograph. He graciously agreed with a smile and a laugh. All I had was a crappy piece of notebook paper, and for a while his autograph hung on the wall of my room. At some point I vaguely recall purging it when I got older, and of course that’s something I now regret.
2. He inspired one of my favorite websites of all time.
During the early days of the internet, a graphic designer named Jaimie Muehlhausen created the website MenWhoLookLikeKennyRogers.Com The site is now in a weird archive format, but be sure to scroll down and see the photos and you will get a sense of what the site was like back in the good old days. It was one of those astute and humorous observations that was hard not to appreciate. It always gives me a smile every few years when I remember to go check it out or tell someone about it.
3. He Wrote One of the Few Songs Anyone Knows about Gambling—and It’s Still a Classic!
4. Cheesy and Awesome Ballads
To be honest, other than the Gambler I mostly remember Kenny for cheesy country ballads. They were the kind of songs you would hear when you got a ride from your friends’ parent to school or back home from t-ball practice. I was surprised to read that he had 24 #1 hits! My hunch is that I wasn’t the right age to appreciate those at the time. I did watch his performance of Lady yesterday, and wow. You can see what a great performer Kenny was, hear his strength and effortless ability to sing with passion, and just understand why he was a megastar through his stage presence and presumed authenticity. Seeing it made me think there’s a large backlog of music I should go check out.
5. He was one of the first celebrities I can recall who tried to own a restaurant chain.
I don’t claim to know much about celebrity restaurant history, but Kenny opened up his Roasters restaurant chain and had a location in my hometown of Athens, Georgia. I remember that the main food they sold was rotisserie chicken, which seemed random but fitting for Kenny’s personality. I don’t think the restaurant survived. It had a bad location in Athens, but it was a fun novelty.
I’m sure there are some better and more conventional reasons to celebrate and miss Kenny, but these are mine.