Irish Examiner View: Hard truths, soft delivery - Kenny Rogers

Irish Examiner View: Hard truths, soft delivery - Kenny Rogers

It may seem, at this moment, incongruous to single out one death as more significant than another. 

The American singer Kenny Rogers, who died over the weekend, would certainly not have expected special attention but then that quality, that avuncular, unthreatening presence was the bedrock of his long, eclectic career. 

He epitomised Nashville velvet but he had some steel too. 

He used those chameleon qualities, and songs from all genres, to address the hardest subjects in the softest ways to producing hit after hit.

One, ‘Lucille’, told a of a man picking up a woman in a bar despite the presence of her bankrupt husband begging her to return; his treble-platinum hit, ‘The Gambler’, offered sobering advice that “the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep”. 

A darker song, though delivered with almost disconnected softness, ‘The Coward of the County’ told of a gang rape long before the #MeToo movement. 

He, like so many entertainers may have sugar-coated life but, unlike so many of them, he told something close enough to the truth. 

That is probably why he had unexpected success at venues — Glastonbury just a few years ago — and among audiences far younger than he was. 

He was the embodiment of Harlan Howard’s definition of country music: three chords and the truth, even if he delivered the truth in a middle-of-the-road package. 

A humane, invaluable quality that we should not underestimate today.

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