Kenny Rogers’s Timeless Classic: “Lady”
Back in 1980, when Kenny Rogers was riding the wave of unmatched success, he decided to take a leap of faith and switch gears. Having spent five years collaborating with the illustrious producer Larry Butler, he was at the pinnacle of his career in the country music scene. It was a year marked by chart-toppers and accolades, making it seem like an unusual time for Rogers to change his creative direction.
The year kicked off with his hit single “Coward Of The County,” swiftly climbing to #1 on the Billboard country chart and #3 on the pop charts. His enchanting duet with Kim Carnes in “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer” followed, reaching #3 on the country chart and #4 on the pop charts. Then came the soulful ballad “Love The World Away” from the “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack, peaking at #4 on the country chart and #14 on the pop charts.
As Kenny Rogers continued to dominate the music scene, his record label, United Artists, prepared a “Greatest Hits” album in anticipation of the holiday season. Amid this success, Kenny was eager to reignite his creative spark. He made a surprising choice, parting ways with Larry Butler and seeking a fresh collaborator. To the astonishment of many, he found a new partner in Lionel Richie, renowned for his work with the R&B sensation “The Commodores.”
Kenny Rogers had been captivated by The Commodores’ hits “Three Times A Lady” and “Easy.” He reached out to Motown Records founder Barry Gordy to explore the possibility of working together. Coincidentally, The Commodores had just canceled a 96-day concert tour due to drummer Walter Orange’s motorcycle accident, leaving Lionel Richie with some free time on his hands.
Richie hopped on a plane to Las Vegas to meet with Kenny, and during their conversation, the topic turned to Kenny’s relationship with his wife at the time, Marianne. From this heart-to-heart talk emerged the inspiration for “Lady,” a song that Lionel crafted specifically for Kenny and Marianne’s marriage.
The two musicians quickly formed a bond and expressed their eagerness to collaborate. They booked studio time at the Concorde Recording Center in Los Angeles and dove into recording “Lady.” Lionel Richie fondly recalled the session as incredibly productive and enjoyable. He later shared with Billboard reporter Tim Walter, “I see now why he (Kenny) is where he is. Forget about that ‘superstar’ stuff – he rolled up his sleeves and said ‘Whatever it takes, just tell me.’ I produced Kenny standing side by side with him in the booth. To do two songs, we spent 8 ½ hours in that booth and never took a break. But we got ’em both, and he did a heck of a job.”
“Lady” not only marked Kenny Rogers’ fourth million-selling single but also his tenth number one hit on the Billboard country chart, achieving this milestone on November 22, 1980. Moreover, it soared to the pinnacle of Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart, holding that coveted position for an astounding six weeks.
The story behind “Lady” not only reveals the magic that can happen when two musical powerhouses come together but also showcases Kenny Rogers‘ dedication to his craft and his willingness to take risks even at the peak of his career. This timeless song remains a testament to the beautiful partnership between Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie, forever etching their names in the annals of music history.
Album: Love Songs
Artist: Kenny Rogers
Awards: People’s Choice Award for Favorite New Song
I’m your knight in shining armor. and I love you
You have made me what I am. and I am yours
There’s so many ways I want to say, “I love you”
Let me hold you in my arms forever more
You have gone and made me such a fool
And I’m so lost in your love
And whoa, we belong together
Won’t you believe in my song?
For so many years, I thought I’d never find you
You have come into my life and made me whole
Let me wake to see you each and every morning
Let me hear you whisper softly in my ear
In my eyes, I see no one else but you
There’s no other love like our love
And yes, oh yes, I’ll always want you near me
I’ve waited for you for so long
Your love’s the only love I need
And beside me is where I want you to be
‘Cause my love
There’s something I want you to know
You’re the love of my life
You’re my lady