Country Rewind: Kenny Rogers Belts About Love With Moving 1980 ‘Lady’ Performance

by Suzanne Halliburton

Kenny Rogers was all about romance and sweet love songs. He provided the theme music for so many weddings and anniversaries. And Lady might’ve been the best.

Rogers recorded Lady back in 1980. Popstar Lionel Richie wrote the now-iconic love song about a man declaring his lifetime adoration to his favorite woman.

The words could be considered a bit over the top, but Kenny Rogers definitely sold them.

I’m your knight in shining armor and I love you. You have made me what I am, and I am yours.

My love. 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 oh, we belong together. Won’t you believe in my song?

Yes, Kenny Rogers, we believe in your song. So did the rest of the nation’s music fans. Give the song a listen and we’ll tell you more about it on the other side.

Kenny Rogers Sang Lady and Got Lionel Richie as a Best Friend

Let’s set the 1980 scene. Kenny Rogers’ career was zooming. Yes, he was known for The Gambler and songs like Coward of the County. He sang duets with Dottie West. Rogers registered nine No. 1 country hits leading up to Lady.

Meanwhile, Lionel Richie was a member of the group, the Commodores. In 1980, he still was a year removed from a solo career. But he was dabbling with music for other performers.

Lady launched both Richie and Kenny Rogers into big-time crossover territory. Rogers released the song in September of 1980. By mid-November, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed there for six weeks, tying Blondie’s Call Me for the longest time at No. 1 for the entire year. John Lennon’s Starting Over knocked Kenny Rogers out of the top spot two days after Christmas.

The song also appeared on the Billboard charts for country, adult contemporary and soul. Now, that defines the term crossover appeal. Lady remained the only No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 song for Kenny Rogers as a solo act. He and Dolly Parton got there three years later with another love song, Islands in the Stream. Ironically, Kenny Rogers spent more time at No. 1 on the pop charts with Lady than he did on the country lists.

Lady also launched a lifetime friendship between Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie.

“Everything that happened in my life, truthfully, from that moment on, had a Kenny Rogers stamp on it,” Richie said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. When I was going through everything, leaving the Commodores, trying to be a solo artist, trying to figure out what that means — he was that guy,” Richie says.

Kenny Rogers, who mastered the art of the love song, died in March 2020. And Lionel Richie paid tribute to his best friend last month at the Grammys. Of course, he sang Lady.