December 13

This Day in History

Music

Dec 13, 1980:

Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits goes to #1

There are pop stars who make a career out of changing their musical style and esthetic appearance every year or two, and then there is Kenny Rogers, the gravel-voiced country star with the impeccably groomed gray hair and beard who found a sound and a look that worked like a charm and never departed from either across decades in the public eye. But even Kenny Rogers took a while to find the right formula. After beginning his musical career in R&B in the late 1950s, he shifted first to folk with the New Christy Minstrels and then to rock with The First Edition over the course of the 1960s and early 1970s. Finally, Kenny Rogers went solo and made the decisive move to country music, and that's when he hit pay dirt. Just four years after earning his first country #1 hit with "Lucille" (1976), and with his formerly long brown hair and beard now fully gray, he released the album Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits, which soared all the way to the top of the Billboard 200 pop album chart on this day in 1980, marking Kenny's arrival as a crossover superstar.

By 1980, Kenny Rogers already had seven #1 country singles under his belt, including "Lucille," "The Gambler" (1978) and "Coward Of The County" (1979). All three of those songs, as well as "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer," his 1980 duet with Kim Carnes, had also reached the top 10 on the Billboard pop charts, but it was a brand-new song on Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits that would help propel that album to 12-times Platinum status and give Rogers his only solo #1 pop hit: the Lionel Richie-penned "Lady." (A simultaneous country chart-topper, "Lady" also gave Richie, the former Commodores frontman, his only share of a country #1.)

For several years following the success of his Greatest Hits album, Kenny Rogers remained a hot item on both the pop and country charts, his biggest crossover hits coming with two 1983 duets written by prominent songwriters: "We've Got Tonight," written by Bob Seger and performed with Sheena Easton (#1 Country, #6 Pop); and "Islands In The Stream," written by Barry Gibb and performed with Dolly Parton (#1 Country, Pop and Adult Contemporary). And while Rogers would cease to be a factor on the pop charts after 1984, he would go on to earn five further country #1 hits: "Crazy" (a 1985 cover of the Willie Nelson-penned classic); "Morning Desire" and "Tomb Of The Unknown Love" (both 1987); "Make No Mistake, She's Mine" (1987, with Ronnie Milsap); and "Buy Me A Rose" (1999, with Alison Kraus and Billy Dean).

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