Thanks to popular Kenny Rogers songs like “The Gambler” and “Islands in the Stream,” country music fans “know when to hold ’em” and “when to fold ’em,” and could tell you that “tender love is blind/it requires a dedication.” Fans could also likely sing along to every word in hits like “Sweet Music Man,” “I Don’t Need You,” and “Morning Desire,” which were just some of the singer’s top tunes.
Frankly, Rogers was the voice behind so many popular songs — including his personal favorite — that he became “[o]ne of the first country artists to sell out arenas, [and] sold more than 100 million records in a career that spanned decades,” according to The New York Times. On top of that, “[b]y the time he stopped performing, Mr. Rogers had placed more than 50 singles in the country Top 40, of which 20 also appeared in the pop Top 40.” Over the course of his career, Rogers snagged 19 Grammy Award nominations and three wins, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
While the singer’s impressive and lengthy discography means that he enjoyed plenty of well-deserved accolades and acclaim — and became a very rich man along the way — it also means that many of his praise-worthy tunes slipped through the cracks. That includes the star’s most underrated song.
This Kenny Rogers song about baseball was an 'unlikely hit'
If fans of Kenny Rogers’ music were asked to name one or two of his songs that they consider to be the very best examples of his work, it’s unlikely that they’d choose “The Greatest” from his 1999 album, She Rides Wild Horses. That’s because, while the song isn’t totally unknown and even turned out to have chart-placing potential, it doesn’t seem to get the attention that it arguably deserves.
“Rogers turned to [songwriter] Don Schlitz … for this unlikely hit that compared life to playing baseball,” according to Billboard. The outlet gave the tune the #8 spot on its critic’s list of the singer’s 10 best songs. Apparently, Schlitz, who is “[a]lways a magician with a lyric,” turned the poor athletic performance of the boy in the song — who, as the lyrics explain, also happens to believe he’s “the greatest player of them all” — “into an exercise in philosophy,” as Billboard puts it, which was a “stroke of genius.”
Need a little evidence to believe that claim? Here it is: At the time of the song’s release, it earned Rogers “his first entry into the Top 30 in eight years,” which certainly seems to prove that you should give it a listen if you haven’t heard it before or just want to enjoy it again.
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