Kenny Rogers is one of those performers who can be considered a one-hit wonder. That claim can be easily disputed—and somewhat justifiably so—because during his long career Rogers sold 64.7-million certified units on a global basis. While that may not seem like a whole lot, know that it puts him just behind Janet Jackson (65.3-million) and just ahead of Santana (62.8-million). And to provide a bit of color, know that he is well ahead of Bob Dylan, who is at 48.1-million, and while Rogers’ career started in 1958 and Dylan’s in 1959, Rogers has been dead since March 2020, so Dylan has a few years on Rogers.
The song that is arguably Rogers’ signature, one that people know of even if they have no idea who is performing it, is “The Gambler,” which he released in 1978. He wasn’t the only one who recorded the song written by Don Schlitz that year: Johnny Cash put it on his album Gone Girl, which also includes a cover of Jagger and Richards “No Expectations.”
The chorus of “The Gambler” is the part of the song that everybody knows, or at least knows partially (certainly the first two lines):
You got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run.
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealing’s done.
One of the characteristics of good poker players is that they know how to bluff. Bluffing is simply the art of making the other participants believe that something that isn’t (the cards in your hand are a mess) is (you have a royal straight flush). It is simply a fake that is meant to be taken to be real. And for a poker player—or for many other types of undertaking—those who can make people part with their money for something that really isn’t the case can prosper.
It is worth pointing out that a bluff isn’t a cheat. Those who bluff and lose ideally “know when to walk away.” Those who cheat and realize that they’re about to be called out on it had better “know when to run.”
There will be a new Kenny Rogers album, Life is Like a Song, that will be released on June 2. Rogers’ widow, according to the AP, “curated the posthumous record.”
Given the number of performers of the modern era who have died, posthumous records have become something of a common phenomenon, especially for performers who had had a good run when they were still in real time.
Back in 2016 the New York Daily News reported, shortly after his death, “Prince leaves behind a cache of unreleased music so vast that his estate could put out a posthumous album every year for the next century.”
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