Kenny Rogers: "Music Is the Great Memory-Maker of All Time"
Tell me why country music is the best?
I've always said that country music is the white man's rhythm and blues. It's where the pain is. With country music, I've had so many people from Korea and different parts of the world say they learned to speak English by listening to my music. Country music doesn't flower it-- if it hurts, they say it hurts--and people can learn small sentences by listening. I just think there is so much knowledge and so much wisdom and so much sincerity in country music. The format of country music is designed to touch people, and I think it does.
Your album, You Can't Make Old Friends, was released last fall. How do you feel about its reception?
I think it's the best album I've ever done. I'm not saying it's going to sell, because records don't sell like they use to. It's an interesting thing, because you use to do concerts to promote album sales, and now you do albums to promote concert sales. It's a totally different world, and so you don't worry as much about album sales as you do getting it out there so people will come see the show.
They use to have to buy ten songs to get the one they wanted, and now they just download the one they want while the others go unheard. Well, a lot of things happen in that dynamic, and people do not really get to know the depth of the artist or what that person thinks about. When you hear a whole album, you pick up common denominators. My music has always basically fallen into two categories; one is social songs, which have some social comment.
If you go back and look at "Reuben James", it's about a black man who raised a white child. "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town", is about a Vietnam War vet who came home and found out his wife was having an affair, and "Coward of the County" was about a rape. So, they all have some social significance to them.
The other category is ballads and love songs that say what every man would like to say, and every woman would like to hear. "Through the Years", "She Believes in Me", "You Decorated My Life", are all wonderful love songs. What man wouldn't want to say them, and what woman wouldn't want to hear them?
But you won't know that if you don't buy the album. It's kind of an American Idol mentality today. You're a hero for a while, and then you're replaced with another hero. Before, it was always my theory that the longer it took you to reach your height, the longer your glide ratio down was. That's why people of my genre have lasted so much longer than you anticipate the people of this era to, because they make it so quick, and they come down quick.