‘Through the Years’ by Kenny Rogers: How the Classic Cut Came to Be

by Suzanne Halliburton

We’ve all heard Kenny Rogers sing “Through the Years.” It zings you in the heart.

The late country superstar sang of a love that endured, of sticking with someone through everything, good and bad. You might have some of the words still memorized. After all, the song played non-stop on the radio in the early 1980s.

Rogers released it before Christmas in 1981. The song hit No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts. It remained on the Billboard Top 40 for almost three months.

“Through the years. You’ve never let me down. You turned my life around. The sweetest days I’ve found, I’ve found with you. Through the years, I’ve never been afraid. I’ve loved the life we’ve made. And I’m so glad I’ve stayed, right here with you, through the years.”

Listen to the song and stick with the story for more details. Kenny Rogers, who died almost a year ago, sang incredible ballads. This one was no different. It might’ve been one of the quickest songs ever written. It has such classic appeal that Rogers even sang it as an ode to the career of Charles Barkley at a Philadelphia 76ers game.


Who Wrote This Kenny Rogers Hit?

The song basically fell into the lap of Kenny Rogers. Lionel Richie, who had a long-time bromance with Rogers, initially wanted to record the song. And then the president of a record company pitched it to Rogers, who declined. It all changed one day when Richie was at Rogers’ home. He played the song demo for Rogers as Rogers’ wife walked into the room. She told her husband it was a must record.

But who was responsible for the brilliant lyrics and memorable melody?

Marty Panzer wrote the words. Steve Dorff created the music. And it all started at Dorff’s home. Dorff invited Panzer over for dinner. Panzer told his friend he had some brilliant lyrics. Dorff loved them so much, he sat down at the piano and the music flowed. The two had the song done in 15 minutes before Dorff’s wife served the first course.

The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville does a terrific series with songwriters, letting them tell the stories behind the musical notes.

They interviewed Dorff about “Through The Years” last October. Dorff said he still vividly remembers the song process all these decades later. At the time, it was maybe the third song Dorff and Panzer wrote together.

Dorff said: “As Marty always does, he reads me the lyric before he gives it to me. … He’s like acting it out like a Shakespearean actor. As he’s reading me the chorus, I’m hearing the tune. So I ripped it out of his hands, I said, “Great.” … We go to the piano. I wrote it in 15 minutes.”

It all turned into a Kenny Rogers classic and the soundtrack to so many relationships.