Kenny Rogers: "Music Is the Great Memory-Maker of All Time"
In the 50's when you began recording music, did you have an ultimate career goal in mind? And in your opinion, looking back, have you reached it today?
My goal was to meet girls -- that's why I got into music. [laughs] And I've been married five times now, so yes, I think I've done everything I set out to do. I can laugh about it now, because Wanda [Miller] and I have been together twenty-one years and married sixteen and a half years. I have a great life.
I don't think most people get into the music business to make money, because the odds against it are astronomical. They get into it because of the love of music, and they want to make music. Money has never been a driving force for me. It's been a great by-product, but it's not what I set out to do.
Someone asked me the other day what I would tell kids coming up who are successful. I'd say, "Pay your taxes on time, and put twenty percent away." Everything else is incidental to that. You tend to live in the moment, and I think it's because everybody has something to prove to either themselves or the audience. Some of the young talent won't have a dime when they're fifty years old, because they go through it with total disregard for when it ends. And the problem is, it will end-- that's the nature of the business.
What can the audience here in Phoenix expect from your live performance?
I'm an entertainer, I think more than a singer. It's not important to me that one person leave that audience saying, "He's the best singer I've ever heard." But it's important to me that everybody in that building leave saying, "I enjoyed that." So, that's my goal when I walk off stage-- to have a good time and have the people enjoy it with me.
I will do about twenty-five hits, and occasionally I'll throw in some songs from the new album, because I have some really good stuff on there. I've been asked if I get tired of doing all my old hits and I said that if I had new ones I might, but since I don't have new ones I'll do my old ones. I think that's what people come to hear.
I went to see Ray Charles one time, he's a friend of mine, and he didn't do "Georgia on My Mind", and I got angry. I said, "Wait a minute, I paid a lot of money for these tickets." People don't just come because they like my smile, it's because they like the music I've done and that's what they want to hear. Music is the great memory-maker of all time.
For example, when I was a kid, "Earth Angel" was a big song. I still remember where I was the day I heard that song. I don't want to hear anybody do it but the original group. I think that's what people come for.
With all the changes in the music industry that you were talking about earlier, do you think it's for better or worse?
Change is always for the better. I've always said that country music is what country people will buy. So, when it ceases to be country, they'll quit buying it. Sooner or later it will go back to what it was before. Some guy is going to come along with that wonderful deep, rich Hank Williams voice, and do something where people say, "I'm so sick of what is out there, I want to hear more of this." That's what music does.
I know there are a lot of people anxious for your show here in Phoenix. It seems like your music reaches a diverse age group of fans after all these years.
Well, I'm convinced that my audience falls into one of two categories; born since 1980, whose parents forced you to listen to my music as child abuse, or born before 1960, but can no longer remember the 60's. [laughs] Those are my groups.
Kenny Rogers is scheduled to perform on Sunday, March 23, at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler.
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