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Lost & Found: Kenny Rogers Wasn’t Always the Gambler

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We as a culture once forgot that Kenny Rogers, the man who sang ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ with Sheena Easton, used to write psychedelic rock songs. Many people probably had no idea about the Gambler’s druggy past, at least not until the Coen Brothers used ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)’ in ‘The Big Lebowski.’

Then everyone too young to have heard anything from Kenny Rogers older than ‘Islands in the Stream’ collectively said, “What the hell is that song?” This sudden interest opened the floodgates of psychedelic country music to a whole new generation. Suddenly, the kids were into Lee Hazelwood and Moby Grape.

Rogers started off as a typical country singer back in 1958. Before long, though, he decided to stray from the orthodox country path. He and some friends formed the First Edition, and the country folk started calling him a hippie because of his longish hair and earring.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition scored a few hits, including ‘Just Dropped In’ and ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.’ While many might not remember the latter song, its influence can be heard in scores of modern bands, like Belle & Sebastian and the Shins. And Rogers’ lyrics, delivered by a deeply sad baritone, are some of the darkest ever, especially for a hit song.

The song tells the tale of a man who’s wife is getting dressed up to go for a night out on the town by herself. As the song progresses, we learn that the husband is a veteran, paralyzed and destined to die soon. And he would murder his wife for going out, if only he could move. Whoa …

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