Country Throwback: Watch Kenny Rogers Perform ‘Coward of the County’ for 1983 HBO Special

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

In 1983, HBO featured Kenny Rogers on his own televised concert in which he gave a powerful performance of his song “Coward of the County.”

The HBO special featured performances by Rogers with special guest, Sheena Easton. Rogers performed some of his many hits that night, including “She’s a Mystery,” “The Gambler,” “Lucille,” and “Lady.”

Kenny Rogers recorded the track “Coward of the County” in Nov 1979. Roger Bowling and Billy Ed Wheeler wrote the track for Roger’s second single from his multi-platinum album, Kenny. 

“Coward of the County” became an overnight success, topping the “Billboard Country” chart and reaching No. 3 on the “Hot 100” chart. In addition, the song also topped the “Cash Box Singles” chart and was a “Top 10” hit in various countries worldwide, including Canada, the UK, and Ireland. In Ireland, the song was No. 1 for six consecutive weeks. 

The Powerful Message Behind the Kenny Roger’s Tune

Rogers incorporates powerful emotion as he performs the song. As the silky-haired country singer commands the stage, Rogers captures the audience’s attention with his storytelling. 

According to Rogers, “Coward Of The County” is about a 10-year-old named Tommy whose Father dies. Right before the father dies, he asks his son to stay out of trouble by turning the other cheek instead of fighting. By following his father’s last wishes, Tommy received the nickname “Coward Of The County.” After three brothers sexually assault Tommy’s girlfriend, Tommy confronts them in a bar to get revenge. Rogers’ narration indicates that sometimes you have to fight when you’re a man. 

The special also included a heartwarming video montage of his son’s birth and early years. His son, Christopher Cody Rogers, even shares a special duet with his dad that night on the song, “You Are So Beautiful.” Sheena Easton and Rogers also team up on a duet, singing “We’ve Got Tonight.”

Feel all the feels by watching the performance below.