Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written for Epinions on October 8, 2012. It appears here as/is, although Kenny died on March 20, 2020. I miss him. His music was a big part of my childhood. So was his acting.
The other day, I ran across a news article about country singer, actor, and photographer, Kenny Rogers. The article was about his brand new book, Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir (2012), and his publisher’s demand that he remove a chapter about his experiences with plastic surgery. Having grown up in the 1970s and 80s, and having a mother who loves his music, I was already pretty familiar with Kenny Rogers as a singer. I had heard a little about his photography and business ventures with Kenny Roger’s Roasters, a chain restaurant he lent his name to, and I had seen him act in Six Pack and a couple of television movies. And I had noticed the dramatic change in his appearance after he got his eyes done… I knew I wanted to read his story, even if there wouldn’t be anything about who botched his surgery!
Kenny Rogers… a man of humble origins
At the beginning of Luck or Something Like It, Kenny Rogers writes about his humble origins in Houston, Texas. He’s one of many children, born in the middle of a big brood. His father, who died in 1975, was an alcoholic who spent all his extra money on booze. His mother was a practical woman who worked hard. When Kenny was young, they lived in the San Felipe projects in Houston, but were later able to move to a better part of the city when the family’s finances improved.
Kenny Rogers attended Jefferson Davis High School in Houston and eventually got into music as a means of getting girls. He was also athletic and went out for sports teams, but it turned out he was better at making music than playing sports. Oddly enough, Rogers didn’t seem to come from a particularly musical family, though he does write that his older sister, Geraldine, taught him how to sing harmony when they were in church. Rogers writes that he was immediately hooked on harmony and it became a defining feature of his sound. He loved being part of a band because of that sound.
Speaking of bands…
Kenny Rogers has been in quite a few of them. Perhaps his best known band was The First Edition, which was the band he was in when he became famous. Rogers explains how he moved to Los Angeles and rubbed elbows with some very talented folks. He learned how to play folk, jazz, and even a little psychedelic styled music. He learned how to alter his image so he could fit in. And he even writes briefly of auditioning Karen Carpenter for The First Edition when their lead singer decided touring wasn’t for her.
He also writes about his famous duet partners, particularly Dolly Parton and Dottie West. He very graciously explains why he owes Dolly Parton a great debt, since their famous duet “Islands In The Stream”, helped keep his career going after he signed a deal with RCA that seemed destined to ruin him.
Speaking of songs
I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ hits. He takes the time to explain the stories behind some of his biggest songs, like “Lucille”, “Reuben James”, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.”
Married five times…
Kenny Rogers claims that he loves being married. In fact, he loves it so much that he’s walked down the aisle five times. Granted, his first wife was the result of a shotgun wedding. Rogers seems to have gotten the hang of marriage, though, having now been married to his fifth wife, Wanda, for twenty years. Besides being a prolific husband, Rogers has also fathered four sons and a daughter. He writes a bit about his kids. I was heartened to read about how he managed to heal his relationship with his eldest son, a product of his third marriage and the victim of parental alienation.
Kenny Rogers is well-known as a singer and an actor, but did you know he’s also a photographer? Rogers writes about how he became interested in taking pictures and some of the projects he’s undertaken with his camera.
I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ life. He comes across as a nice person, suprisingly down to earth and candid about his successes and failures, and gracious to all who helped him get to where he is today. I didn’t even miss the missing chapter about his plastic surgery.
Kenny Rogers has been around for 74 years and had some amazing experiences. I never got the sense he was bragging about his good fortune or whining about his misfortunes. He just comes off as someone who came from humble origins and had a rare combination of drive, talent, and luck that propelled him to success. His story is the kind that has the potential to give people hope.
He includes photos in both color and black and white. Just as an aside… In case anyone is wondering, no, Kenny doesn’t include the roasted chicken recipe made famous in his restaurants.
I would definitely recommend Luck or Something Like It to Kenny Rogers fans or even people who just enjoy a good life story. I read this book on my iPad and am pleased to report that I had no issues with that method. Even the pictures looked great. Five stars.
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