Kenny Rogers' new Water and Bridges
proves that a seminal
American music icon can still surprise people -- and challenge himself.
A story-song's best friend, Rogers built his monumental career on his
ability to convey the emotional truth of a lyric. That trait resonates
throughout Water and Bridges-an exceptionally substantial collection of
11 new songs that concentrates on contemporary material of exceptional
Even though he's earned 20 platinum album certifications, scored 22 No.
1 hits and sold 105 million albums worldwide, Rogers will be the first
to tell you that he's not the world's strongest or most gifted singer.
However, he is among the most effective.
When Kenny Rogers sings a song, a listener always gets exactly what it's
about, always feels every nuance and subtle emotional point. When he
performs, whether on record or on stage, it's never about how special
his voice is; it's always about how special the song is.
Reaching people has always been Rogers' specialty. In a pop era when
superstars rarely stretch into the next decade, the Texas native is the
only artist to chart a record in each of the last six decades, from the
1950s to the 2000s, including such American standards as "The Gambler,"
"Lucille," "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," "Coward of the
County," "She Believes in Me" and "Lady." Moreover, "Islands in the
Stream," his classic pairing with Dolly Parton, recently was named the
No. 1 country duet of all time by CMT.
His accolades only tell part of the story, but it's a stunningly
impressive list: Three Grammy Awards, five Country Music Association
Awards, eight Academy of Country Music Awards, 11 People's Choice
Awards and 18 American Music Awards.
Rogers even proved he could combat modern music's focus on youth by
leaping back to the top when, after starting his own independent label
Dreamcatcher Records, he achieved hits with "The Greatest" and "Buy Me
a Rose" -- which made him the oldest artist in all genres of music to
reach No. 1 in the history of Billboard charts.
Rogers has always had other pursuits, of course. He's a successful actor
whose Gambler franchise was so popular that it spawned five movies and a
five-episode mini-series, the longest-running mini-series in American TV
history. He's written four books of fiction and non-fiction, published
three books of photography, and he's chairman of the multi-leveled
company Dreamcatcher Entertainment. He won the prestigious Horatio
Alger Award, given to those who have distinguished themselves while
rising from humble beginnings.
But Rogers has remained relevant because he doesn't rest on his
accomplishments. The strengths of Water and Bridges have little
to do with past triumphs, and everything to do with proving he's as
capable as ever of creating heart-stirring music that speaks directly
to audiences today.