Years ago…when shag carpet was in, stereos with turntables graced every family room, and the “vinyl album” was the only means of playing music…I was at the mercy of my parent’s musical tastes. They pretty much liked a bizarre mix of classical and country. My sister and I preferred the country…we could at least dance to it. We had all the greats…Glenn Campbell and his “Rhinestone Cowboy”, Dolly Parton and her “Jolene”, and what good ol’ country collection is complete without Conway Twitty and his “Tight Fittin’ Jeans”? But there was one song on one album in the collection that my sister and I could never get enough of. I later learned…at that point in high school when it’s cool to admit you like country…that there were quite a few living rooms in town where this song played over and over.
I don’t remember the first time I heard it exactly. Sometime around 1978 when it was released – some 30 years ago. But even to this day, I can sing the words without missing a beat. Of course, back then I never paid any mind to the message behind the lyrics – probably a time when I should have – but now that I’m older they make a heck of a lot of sense. You remember this? Did it play in your living room?
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.
Ah yes. You know it! Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”.
I played it tonight for my kids – over and over! They loved it just as my sister and I did all those years ago. Funny thing is now I get it. I get the lyrics and they’re pretty damn good – a good deal of wisdom (if you’ll pardon the pun). Now for those of you looking for something deep and profound, you won’t find that here. In country music they say what they mean and they mean what they say! But all in all, it’s a pretty good ditty and seems to have withstood the rigors of time – or at least earned the term “Golden Oldie”. I’m not surprised. If you haven’t heard it or its been a while, have a listen now…I guarantee you won’t be able to help but tap your toe at the very least! And if you’re singing at the top of your lungs in your living room right now, just know that you’re not alone!
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
Now every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.
’cause evry hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.