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Kenny Rogers Songs: 16 of His Top Solo Tracks, Ranked

If you fancy yourself a “Gambler,” place a bet on where your favorites will land!

The music, the voice, that beard! Kenny Rogers songs was a staple of both country and pop radio for decades starting in the late 60s, when he left the New Christy Minstrels and broke out with a few bandmates to start their own group, The First Edition.

That project led to such memorable hits as “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” “But You Know I Love You,” “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and “Something’s Burning.”

His success burned brighter yet after he went solo in 1976, when, after a few minor Kenny Rogers songs became minor hits, he struck it big with 1976’s “Lucille,” which earned him the first of his three career Grammy awards. “All I ever wanted to do is make music,” Rogers once said, and he was soon living that dream to the fullest, winning six career CMA Awards throughout his career on top of those Grammys, and he was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Man holding grammy award
Kenny Rogers with a Grammy award (1978) Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

A total of 20 Kenny Rogers songs from his solo career topped the country charts, and two dominated the pop charts as well. “Everybody thinks I came out [to Nashville] to change country music. And I didn’t,” he once said. “I really went out there to survive. What I did wasn’t really country but I tell people all the time, country music is whatever country people will buy. That’s my philosophy.”

And it worked for the Houston native, who struck gold with the wide array of artists he collaborated with along the way, from Dolly Parton, Dottie West, and Kim Carnes to Sheena Easton and Lionel Richie. For fans, Kenny Rogers songs are timeless — and he once shared that the secret to his success was finding tunes with great lyrics. “Music is the great memory-maker,” he told in 2016. “I try to do songs that every man would like to say, and every woman would like to hear. If you do that, you get both groups.”

Man and woman singing on stage; Kenny Roger songs
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton singing at a concert (1990) Paul Harris / Contributor / Getty

His fellow artists agree that he was a master at that — and more. “The material he picked was always top-of-the-line.… [And] Kenny’s vocals always came from the heart and his voice is so recognizable,” Travis Tritt has shared, adding that the legend “opened many doors for me. He took me under his wing when I was first getting started, allowing me to open shows. And opening shows for Kenny Rogers is a big deal.”

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The icon’s stage presence was also a huge inspiration for Lady A’s Hillary Scott. “The way he connects with a crowd — he makes everyone feel like they’re in his living room,” she once noted, praising the way he took her and other younger artists under his wing. “He always looked for every opportunity to encourage, inspire and share nuggets of wisdom that he learned. He wanted others to have the career that they deserve.”

Kenny Rogers with a microphone; Kenny rogers songs
Kenny Rogers (1988) Gary Gershoff / Contributor / Getty

His own career, of course, was impressive, and it’s left us with plenty of Kenny Rogers songs to  remember the artist, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 81. For the purpose of our favorites list, we stuck to his solo releases, so you won’t find any of his dazzling duets below, but be sure to revisit such gems as “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer” (with Kim Carnes), “We’ve Got Tonight” (with Sheena Easton), “All I Ever Need Is You” (with Dottie West), “Buy Me a Rose” (with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean), “Make No Mistake She’s Mine” (with Ronnie Milsap) and, of course, “Islands in the Stream” and “You Can’t Make Old Friends” with Dolly Parton.

Then, after all of those great tunes, dive into our 16 favorite Kenny Rogers songs from his solo career.

16. “I Can’t Unlove You” (2005): Kenny Rogers Songs

“I think I just have to find that song [that country radio] can’t say ‘no’ to, and I will constantly be trying to do that,” Rogers said in 2010, citing this sentimental winner as an example of one that prevailed later in his career. “I wish I could unremember everything my heart’s been though,” he emotively sings about a failed relationship, but we all know that’s easier said than done, which makes this one of the most relatable Kenny Rogers songs.

15. “Crazy” (1984)

Fans sure were nuts for this romantic tune, which went all the way to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart while even crossing over to the Hot 100. “If I looked all my life there could be no one else, and for the rest of my life all I need is you,” Rogers sings, and when you hear his perfectly warm and gravelly vocals, this one’s success doesn’t seem crazy at all.

14. “Share Your Love With Me” (1981): Kenny Rogers Songs

This stunner was produced by Lionel Richie and features heavenly backing vocals from Gladys Knight & the Pips, making this one of our favorite Kenny Rogers songs of all time. The tune, written by Alfred Braggs and Deadric Malone, was previously covered by The Band, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin, who earned a Grammy for her version. Still, Rogers’ interpretation — with the assist from Richie and Knight — make this a memorable entry in the Gambler’s collection, and it reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

13. “Morning Desire” (1985)

Rogers notched another No. 1 on the country charts with this sexy number. “I listen to her breathe, and it makes me wanna wake her up and tell her that I’m on fire, with morning desire,” he sings, cranking up the heat! In 2001, the artist admitted to Rolling Stone that sexuality was very important to him. “Absolutely. It’s what drives me. You have to keep passion alive in a relationship. Otherwise, you become friends. Friends are wonderful,” he shared, before adding with a laugh, “but that’s not what I’m looking for.”

12. “She Believes in Me” (1979): Kenny Rogers Songs

The entertainer once told Dan Rather that this was in a group with six or seven other songs that he knew to always perform at every concert, due to its popularity. “And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me,” he sings in the emotional song, which is about the unflinching love and support one woman shows to her music-making man. It went to No. 1 on both the Country and Adult Contemporary charts.

11. “I Don’t Need You” (1981)

When Rogers distinctively delivers “But we both want it bad enough” after a string of lines laying out what he and his lover don’t need, it’s game on. You’re hooked on this song. This Lionel Richie-produced megahit sure was wanted badly by listeners, too: It spent six weeks in the No. 1 position on the Adult Contemporary charts.

10. “You Decorated My Life” (1979): Kenny Rogers Songs

Co-written by Debbie Hupp and Bob Morrison, this track was initially recorded by Morrison himself before Rogers connected with it and made it a huge hit in the late 70s. “Kenny Rogers…could tell a story. He could morph anywhere he wanted to go! He could sing anything. That was the great thing about him,” Morrison told The Tennessean. He also revealed that Hupp’s lyrics were inspired one December when she thought, “‘I need to figure out how to decorate for Christmas.’ Bingo! A light went off. She brought a cassette recorder into a car and started recording the melody and the first verse and a little bit of the chorus,” Morrison shared.

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9. “Sweet Music Man” (1977)

This tune that Rogers wrote himself (inspired by Jessi Colter’s relationship with Waylon Jennings), was covered by Dolly Parton in 1977, and she also delivered an intimate, knockout performance of it on a 2020 TV special honoring Rogers after his death. “Nobody sings a love song quite like you do, and nobody else can make me sing along. And nobody else can make me feel things are right when I know they’re wrong,” she sang, using Rogers’ own powerful lyrics to pay tribute to her dearly departed friend.

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8. “Love Will Turn You Around” (1982): Kenny Rogers Songs

Justin and Jordan Rogers, Kenny’s twin sons, told People in 2023 that this song is one of their three favorites of their dad’s. The Grammy-nominated song served as the theme song to Rogers’ 1982 film Six Pack, and it’s no surprise that it raced to the No. 1 position on both the Country and Adult Contemporary charts.

7. “Through the Years” (1981)

With its sweet lyrics and the sentimentality of the music and strings, this song should’ve been titled “Through the Tears.” Yep, this one’s a weeper, and it’s likely to trigger a highlight reel of memories in anyone’s mind who listens to it. “Through the years, it’s better every day, you’ve kissed my tears away, as long as it’s okay, I’ll stay with you, through the years.” Tissues, please…

6. “Love or Something Like It” (1978): Kenny Rogers Songs

Rogers co-wrote this track with band member Steven Glassmeyer, and decades later it influenced the title of his 2012 book, Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir, which was a New York Times bestseller. The song — which has a bit of a Jimmy Buffet, tropical sound and flavor to it — had more than a little luck of its own, making it to the top of the country charts.

MUST READ: 20 Greatest Country Love Songs of the Past 50 Years

5. “Daytime Friends” (1977)

This song about two people sneaking around having an affair was Rogers’ second No. 1 hit as a solo artist. The even bigger secret is that Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak (!) is partly responsible for the tune: Songwriter Ben Peters once shared that Sajak, when he was a weather reporter in Nashville, said the phrase “daytime highs and nighttime lows” during a broadcast, and that was enough to spark the idea for the lyrical format and hook of the chorus. And Peters didn’t even have to buy a vowel to solve the puzzle and complete the track!

4. “Coward of the County” (1979): Kenny Rogers Songs

“I’m amazed how many people don’t know [“Coward of the County”] was actually about a rape,” Rogers once revealed to Texas Monthly of this No. 1 hit on the country charts. That story arc was later played out in the singer’s 1981 TV movie of the same name, which dug deeper into the story about Tommy, the titular “coward,” who avenges the assault on his girlfriend Becky. Rogers considered this one of his social commentary songs, which he used to balance out his love songs. As American Songwriter notes, “Rogers delivers the key line in chilling fashion to let everyone know the tables are about to turn: ‘But you could have heard a pin drop when Tommy stopped and locked the door.’”

3. “Lady” (1980)

“What man wouldn’t want to say, ‘Lady, I’m your knight in shining armor and I love you’? And what woman wouldn’t want to hear that?’ Rogers asked Texas Monthly. Proving the wide appeal of the song’s romantic vibe and lyrics, the song hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country, Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary charts, and it also cracked the soul charts. Making its success even more incredible is that Rogers revealed on 1999’s Live By Request that Richie only had the first verse written when Rogers was recording it. “I’m in the studio with musicians, singing the first verse [and] he literally goes to the bathroom and writes the second verse, while I’m singing the first verse,” he shared, still clearly impressed by Richie’s talent.

2. “Lucille” (1977): Kenny Rogers Songs

Rogers’ solo career skyrocketed after his first solo No. 1 topped the U.S. country charts, then did the same on international ones as well, including in the U.K., South Africa, and Yugoslavia. (Talk about a worldwide hit!) Another story song, it talks about a romantic meeting in a bar that gets interrupted by the woman’s husband, whom she’s left with “with four hungry children and a crop in the field.” The singer’s mother, named Lucille, was suspicious of the track at first, he revealed to Billboard. “She thought I was putting her business out on the street. She said ‘How dare you tell people I had four hungry children,’” Rogers shared. “I told her, ‘First of all, you have eight kids. Secondly, I didn’t write it, and thirdly, it’s not about you. Then she tamed down a little bit.”

1. “The Gambler” (1977)

“‘The Gambler’ personified [me], having done five Gambler movies. It became bigger than life,” the artist told of his career-defining No. 1 hit. “Everybody seemed to love that song. In doing [it], I became The Gambler. I was not a good gambler or a good actor, but it was a combination that made it make sense.”

The song itself, written by Don Schlitz, was a bit of a, well, gamble, for the artist as it had previously been released by Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash. But it was Rogers who went all-in on this prize of a tune, winning the biggest success with it — along with a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.

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