If you want to know what your message is, just sing it- Kenny Rogers
By now everyone is well aware of the demise of this ingenious country singer, actor, and author and of course who could forget Kenny Rogers’ Roasters (his brand of chicken restaurants in the 1990s)
I still remember the first time I came to Guwahati, to visit my grandpa to discover those old hips of him swaying side by side to a musical number. Back then, having a CD player means you are entitled to show it off. So I turned to my uncle and he laughed saying, “No one can stop my dad once Islands in the Stream plays.”
Now frankly, if anyone calls me “musically dumb” I wouldn’t mind for I am. But I was a curious kid and I desperately wanted to know what made my usually rigid grandpa sway so much. Also, being from a small town like Tezpur where only one or two houses had the privilege to listen to “English music” I took this as an opportunity to boast in front of my friends. Hence, during the entire summer vacation, I made it my mission to listen to everything that this white-haired singer (the CD album cover had a photo of Kenny Rogers) had to offer. From The Gambler, Lucille, to Jolene and Lady, I had everything down to the last word.
However, hearing and listening has a totally different connotation all together and I was unable to figure out my grandpa’s infatuation for his music. For a young mind of 15, the singer sounded quite boring to me. But never the less I did take the CD back home and my Sundays would always be Kenny Rogers form 9 am-12 pm followed by Shaktiman after 12 noon. That CD became one of the most prized possession of mine.
Even though Kenny became my first brush with music from the west, it didn’t stay like that forever. The teenage mind is a fickle thing and I became infatuated with a different genre of music sung by a plethora of different musicians. Kenny became a thing of the past and his CD, a historical relic, lost between shifting from place to place (as my father’s job made us move from place to place to new places, meet new people, make new friends).
However, a question did reverberate inside the crevices of my mind. Was it just the old man doing the Hips don’t lie move to western music in his jammies that mesmerised me or was there something in the music that caught me off guard? It was almost a decade later in 2020 I actually came to know the reason. (or at least I think it was) Whilst having a house party at my colleague’s place, she started singing The Gambler. Mind it, it was the first time after years that I heard those lyrics, (I know how can I forget Kenny Rogers; hence the disclaimer “musically dumb”) and even then I was still able to harmonize with Mehzabin (my colleague) on And the night got deathly quiet/And his faced lost all expression/He said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy/You gotta learn to play it right.
After I recounted the entire story to her she (who is a die-hard fan of Kenny Rogers) said, “It’s because he says what every man wants to say and that every woman wants to hear”. This line of her’s (only later I found that she copied one of his lines from an interview) suddenly made me question, was this the reason why my grandpa
loved listening to Rogers? Was it also the reason why even after all these years I was still able to sing along?
The question still plagues me and after his demise, the events which transpired in 2010 now plays in a non-stop loop in my mind like an old b&w movie. All I can do now is pull up Kenny Rogers on my Spotify and jot down a few words to remember the silver-fox mystique.