Life Lessons From Kenny Rogers



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While the rest of Nashville was clogging up the Gulch in pursuit of free gas (seriously, WTF), I was eating lunch with Kenny Rogers. I'm not talking about any of those dudes who look like Kenny Rogers, but the Kenny Rogers, who played the Ryman last night.

It was pretty much like a date, except for all of those other people eating with us. Kenny was hanging with the fine folks of industry educational nonprofit Leadership Music as part of their Off the Record series, in which legends talk to LM alumni in an unfiltered, intimate setting. So yeah, like a date.

Anyway, I was trying my best to tear myself away from Rogers' baby blues long enough to scribble down all of the nuggets of wisdom that the man was dishing out with a side of Mediterranean lasagna and mixed greens. So here's a recap of life lessons from Kenny R., aided by the equally legendary Gerry House.


On success: "Success is not a reason to quit."

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More on success: "Most people are successful because someone they care about really believed in them, and they didn't want to disappoint that person."

On the best advice his dad gave him: "Be friendly to all, but friends to a few."

On the best advice his mom gave him: "She said, 'Be happy where you are.' It's easy to be happy at the peaks, but it's hard to be happy in the valleys."

(Gerry House on the worst advice his dad gave him: "My dad told me that truck drivers know the best place to eat. That was not good advice.")

Rogers on the best advice he got from another musician: "This is not all wet towels and naked women. This is a business; treat it like a business."

On the best advice he has to offer other musicians: "Pay your taxes on time and save 20 percent."

On Elvis, and how one time he asked Elvis to go play blackjack with him, but Elvis didn't want to get mobbed in public: "You realize what a box these guys are in ... they're so unique, they can't do the things the rest of us take for granted. It's sad to have all that success that you can't live your life."

This is what popped up when I Googled Kenny Rogers Elvis and it stays.
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  • This is what popped up when I Googled "Kenny Rogers Elvis," and it stays.

On his level of fame: "I sign enough autographs to feed my ego but not enough to invade my life."

On hanging out with Michael Jackson and Bubbles: "These guys don't have anyone to talk to. ... He was a great guy, but really boxed in." (Gerry House's response: "You end up with a monkey as a best friend.")

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On who he would call if he ended up in jail: "I'd call you [Gerry House], because I know you've got a lot of pull there."

On country radio: "You don't realize, as an artist, how much pressure there is to do a song that will get played on radio."

On plastic surgery: "Don't get into that cosmetic surgery."

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On having children later in life (Rogers has 9-year-old identical twin boys with his wife of 21 years, Wanda): "I realize that I may not be here at a crucial point in their lives, and that really bothers me."

On giving love advice to his children: "My son said, 'Dad, I'm in love with a girl at school and she doesn't like me.' I told him, 'Get used to that.'"

On other advice he'd like to give his children: "I don't expect A students. I was a straight-C student. I want them to be happy and be good at a lot of things."

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On living a life of no regrets: "I've had an incredibly blessed life, and I wouldn't change a thing."

On not being a hoarder: "I'm not a keeper. I've been everywhere in the world, and I bring back stories."

On why he's not assembling that bookshelf from IKEA: "It took me three hours to put [one of his son's toys] together."

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On his place in country music in 2013: "I can compete by doing what everyone else does and doing it better, or I can do something completely different."

On why country music sounds like it does today: "Not everyone's roots go back to Hank Williams. Some only go so far as Alabama."

On where his roots go back to: "I miss Waylon, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash. I miss the stories they sang about. I think that's something country music could use."

On Taylor Swift: "I personally think country music is very healthy. ... People like Taylor Swift are bringing a lot of young kids here, and I think that's healthy."

On American Idol, instant fame, etc.: "If you go straight up, you go straight down."

On the current country music he's into: "I love Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban."

On country music in general: "I think country music is what country people will buy."

On the future of country music: "Someone new is going to come along doing something different. Trends ultimately go back to the beginning, and someone will come along with a country feel again. Trust me on this."

On his new song with his old buddy Dolly Parton (referenced here yesterday): "This song documents the relationship I have with Dolly."

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On his hit, "The Gambler": "That's the trick to those songs — having something that everyone can sing."

On his hit, "Something's Burning": "Country radio said it was 'too sexual.'"

On what happened to his chicken place, which is no longer open in the U.S.: "Kenny Rogers Roasters is still huge in China!"

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On the kinds of songs he likes to sing: "I do ballads that say what every man wants to say and that every woman wants to hear, or I do songs about social issues."

More on the kinds of songs he likes to sing: "I don't like to sing words, I like to tell stories."

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On his upcoming induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame: "It's not when you get in, it's that you get in."

On music: "Music is what I am, everything else is what I do."

And then, this happened. And it was awesome. Thanks, Kenny and Gerry!


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