Kenny Rogers developed a friendship with Lionel Richie thanks to the song “Lady.” Richie wrote it and Rogers sang it. That’s not all, though.
Rogers, who was a country singer-songwriter himself, had a knack for performing crossover hits. Those were songs that could hit it big on both the country and popular music charts at the same time. Richie, known for his singing and songwriting abilities as a member of the soul group The Commodores, branched out into his own solo career.
Both Rogers and Richie spent time together on “CMT Crossroads” in 2005 talking about their professional relationship. They also performed “Lady” together.
Kenny Rogers Said ‘Lady’ Changed His Life
“To say that ‘Lady’ changed my life is an understatement,” Kenny Rogers said. “The thing that I’ve loved most about our relationship is that we became friends through that song.”
“I heard the ‘Ray Charles’ Modern Sound of Country Music’ and I thought how clever it was that he was singing R&B to country tracks,” Rogers said. “So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I sing country to R&B tracks?’ And I had heard The Commodores’ ‘Three Times A Lady’ and ‘Still’ which, to me, are wonderful country songs.
“So I reached out about working with you and Lionel comes to…”
“Las Vegas,” Lionel Richie remembers.
“And there’s a little upright piano there and he says, ‘I’ve written this song for you,'” Kenny Rogers said, and he goes into humming a little bit of “Lady.”
Lionel Richie Spent Early Career With The Commodores
Richie said, “And I had worked with The Commodores forever and we never pitch a whole song because, well, why finish it if you’re not going to like it. So you only do the first couple of lines.
“Kenny said, ‘So let me hear the song, Lionel,'” Richie said and goes into singing the song’s melody.
“Do you like it?” Richie asked Rogers at the time. “Well if you do, then I’ll give you more than the melody part. And he had enough guts to tell me, ‘No, I like it.’ He said, ‘Go for it,’ so I figured I was the producer so, yeah.
“But as I told you that day, how believable can we make this,” Richie said. “And you were from that first you walked in and said, ‘I like that song,’ you pulled that song off. It was not a trouble. You just, as you say, ‘Roger-nized’ it and went on with it.”
Rogers’ career was filled with multiple No. 1 songs, millions of records sold, and a lifetime of memories for his fans. He first popped on the music scene as part of The First Edition rock group, then branched out into country music. Kenny Rogers died on March 20, 2020.
Here a clip of their conversation and performance for CMT Crossroads.