Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kenny Rogers: How Hippie Went Country

We all know Kenny Rogers as that big, grey-bearded country superstar. In another life, he could have been our grandpa. In fact, so many old white men tend to look like Kenny Rogers, there's even a famous website about it: menwholooklikekennyrogers.com.

But there are some dark, rebellious skeletons lurking in Kenny Rogers' closet. For you see, our sweet old grandpa used to be ... a hippie.

Kenny Rogers' career path may have been arguably even more bizarre than Belinda Carlisle's. As the lead singer of the First Edition, Rogers hit the pop charts in 1968 with the hilariously titled "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," a tune primarily known to our generation as "that song that's playing during the Dude's bowling acid flashbacks in The Big Lebowski."

When he wasn't singing about acid, Rogers was singing about paralyzed Vietnam vets whose wives were cheating on them (and they couldn't stop their wives from leaving the house because, well, they were paralyzed):
It wasn't me that started that old crazy Asian war
But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore
And yes, it's true that I'm not the man I used to be
Oh, Ruby... I still need some company

It's hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age, Ruby I realize,
But it won't be long I've heard them say until I'm not around
Oh Ruby, don't take your love to town

She's leaving now 'cause I just heard the slamming of the door
The way I know I've heard it slam some 100 times before
And if I could move I'd get my gun and put her in the ground
Oh Ruby, don't take your love to town

Or, he was singing about friendly old black people who got shat on by their fellow Southern townsfolk:
Reuben James
All the folks around Madison County cussed your name
You're just a no count sharecropping colored man
You'd steal anything you can
And everybody laid the blame on Reuben James

Flora Graves
The gossip of Madison County died with child
And although your skin was black
You were the one that didn't turn your back
On the hungry white child with no name, Reuben James

But eventually, like so many of his generation, Kenny must have grown disillusioned with the squandered promise of the Age of Aquarius. Either that, or the hits dried up. The point is, our former counter-cultural rebel re-emerged in the late '70s as the Kenny Rogers we know and love: older, wiser, and blander.


Herr Zrbo said...

Kenny Rogers... the psychedelic gambler?

Herr Zrbo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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