February 16, 2003


Weird beard: The festering darkness at the heart of Kenny Rogers' mystique (Becky Olsen, Portland Willamette Week)
[H]ere's the paradox. The Rogers Paradox, if you will. At the same time ol' Kenny established himself as the most anodyne of cultural figures, he based almost his entire song catalog on total sociopathy. Beneath his bland exterior, and somehow beyond the notice of most of his fans, Kenny Rogers was consumed by an obsession with evil.

To be fair, the man has done some "good" things. It was Kenny who took the only known photo of Dolly Parton that does not focus on cleavage. (It's very tasteful.) He has donated much time and energy to fighting hunger and homelessness; he created the World Hunger Media Awards; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development named him Hero of Public Housing in '95. In 1990, he won the Horatio Alger Award, bestowed upon those who distinguish themselves despite humble origins.

But more than any of the other male country singers who dominated the '70s and '80s--except maybe Conway Twitty--Rogers embodied the cuddly sicko. His perversity was both surreptitious and surreal. You looked at him and thought, "Santa." And then he would belt out the heart-wrenching tale of a creep gone mad with lust for a teenage stripper ("Scarlet Fever"). Or a brooding tale about a pathetic farmer who catches his wife hitting on some rube in a bar, after she's abandoned him with their passel of brats (that would be "Lucille," and admittedly your sympathy decreases when you figure out the lyric is "four hungry children," not "400 children"). And my personal favorite, "Ruby," the story of a crippled war vet who has to sit in his wheelchair and watch his cheatin'-hearted wife get dolled up to prowl for some fresh, unparalyzed nookie ("If I could move, I'd get my gun and put her in the ground/ Oh Ruby, don't take yer love to town...").

Not sure why they had to drag the beard into it... Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2003 2:44 PM
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