Kenny Rogers’ Song Cycle ‘Life Is Like A Song’ Features New And Rare Material

Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Kenny Rogers’ first posthumous album, Life Is Like A Song, out via UMe, is a heartfelt collection of songs that were near and dear to the late legend but in most cases never released. Curated and executive produced by the Country Music Hall of Famer’s widow, Wanda Rogers, the album features eight never-before-heard recordings, spanning 2008-2011, and showcases Rogers’ range through an array of original material and covers, including interpretations of Eric Clapton’sWonderful Tonight”and Lionel Richie’sGoodbye,”as well as the artist’s long-sought-after lost duet with Dolly Parton, “Tell Me That You Love Me,” presented here in a never-before-released, newly remixed form. A digital deluxe edition includes two bonus tracks: a cover of the Mack Gordon/Henry Warren standard, “At Last” (made famous by Etta James), and the Buddy Hyatt-penned original, “Say Hello to Heaven.”Life Is Like A Song is available now on CD and vinyl as well as digitally. The release marks the first new non-Christmas studio album by Rogers in 10 years and the only non-compilation/non-reissued full-length album to be released on vinyl since 1991.

Specially Curated By Wanda Rogers, New Album Blends Original Songs And Moving Covers For Stunning Song Cycle:

  • Features Eight Unreleased Recordings And Two Coveted Rarities; Includes Duets With Dolly Parton, Jamie O’neal And Kim Keyes
  • Unreleased Treasure, “Catching Grasshoppers,” Written By Toronto-Based Songwriters Laura Mccall Torno And Earl Torno
  • “Straight Into Love” Penned By Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Famer,Jimmy Rankin Of The Rankin Family Andcanadian Country Music Hall Of Fame Member, Patricia Conroy Pen 

Stream or purchase Life Is Like A Song:

“When listening to these recordings, it’s a beautiful reminder that everyone has experiences that these songs describe,” said Wanda Rogers. “Kenny had a gift of expressing so many people’s feelings through his music and his voice. He reached millions, but because he was so humble, he didn’t realize the impact he truly had. To be able to share these tracks with his fans is so exciting. It’s what Kenny would want. He would be so proud of this album. He has gone on to better things, but he will always be with us, through our memories and his music.” 

Life Is Like A Song showcases the many sides of Rogers’ artistry and the breadth of these recordings. Album opener “Love Is A Drug” is a hard-driving, fist-pumping country rock anthem co-written by Rogers’ longtime musical partner and former New Christy Minstrels bandmate, Kim Carnes. On the other end of the spectrum is the Motown classic, “I Wish It Would Rain,”originally made a hit by The Temptations. The ballad, showcasing Rogers’ soulful vocals alongside new instrumentation by celebrated producer Kyle Lehning and in demand musician/producer Viktor Krauss, who together oversaw Rogers’ recording, harkens back to Rogers’ classic soft rock era.

The centerpiece of the album is the unreleased treasure, “Catchin’ Grasshoppers,”a deeply personal ode to Rogers’ twin sons with Wanda Rogers, Justin and Jordan. 

Written by Toronto-based Canadian songwritersLaura McCall Torno and Earl Torno, with production work by Rogers and Randy Dorman (a member of Rogers’ band, Bloodline, since the 1970s), and featuring the musicianship of Bloodline, the moving tune finds Rogers reveling in the quiet, precious memories made with his young children, now aged 18. Rogers sings, “Years from now I won’t remember this day/I won’t recall the field/But I’ll remember my children’s eyes/Lighting up like stars when they were five/Yes, I’ll remember/Catchin’ grasshoppers.”The Torno’s have written for many artists such as Juno Award-winner Carlos Morgan and Canadian Idol finalist Billy Klippert, and their music has been featured in various TV shows and films such as “Degrassi:  The Next Generation,” “Too Late To Say Goodbye” starring Rob Lowe, “Small Town Saturday Night” starring Chris Pine, and the #1 Disney Junior Channel kids show, “PJ Masks.” 

“From the moment the concept of ‘Catchin’ Grasshoppers’was conceived, it was Kenny Rogers’ voice that I distinctly heard in my mind singing this song,” said Laura Torno.“I knew this was ‘Kenny’s Song.’ I could see him vividly in my mind bringing his distinctive voice and gift of storytelling to every word and nuance of melody.What I didn’t know initially was that Kenny and his wife Wanda had two young twin boys,Justin and Jordan. I learned that later, and was thrilled to modify the lyrics to have the twins weaved throughout the song, tailoring the lines to reflect on the heartwarming relationship Kenny had with his boys. We were fortunate to have the support of our publisher, Rex Benson, who believed in our song enough to get it to Kenny Rogers. Rex, known for bringing Kenny his No. 1 hit ‘Buy Me A Rose,’ immediately forwarded ‘Catchin’ Grasshoppers’ and much to our surprise and delight, a few days later he called us on behalf of Kenny who was requesting the instrumental version of the song to rehearse to.We had the pleasure of meeting Kenny backstage at one of his shows shortly after he recorded the song and he gave us the most wonderful gift by telling us how much ‘Catchin’ Grasshoppers’ meant to him personally, how greatly he valued it, and that the song is a legacy to his twin boys Justin and Jordan.That was the most fulfilling moment that I could ever experience as a songwriter.There will never be another like it. Knowing how significant our song was to Kenny is something Earl and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.”

Similar to “Catchin’ Grasshoppers,” “Straight Into Love,”speaks to cherishing time together with the one you love. A duet with Australian country star Jamie O’Neal,the songwas helmed by award-winning producer Brent Maher(The Judds, Elvis Presley, Olivia Newton-John), a veteran of Rogers’ productions and was written by Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame member Jimmy Rankin of The Rankin Family, who is based in Nova Scotia, and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Patricia Conroy, who was born in Montreal and resides in Nashville. Rankin’s solo and Rankin Family awards include five Junos, 27 East Coast Music Awards, nineSOCAN top radio play Awards, seven Canadian Country Music Awards, two Music NS Awards, and two Canadian Radio Music Awards. Conroy has received many Canadian awards as well, including Canadian Country Female Vocalist, Independent Female Vocalist of the Year (three times), Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. She was a Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and Songwriter of the Year honoree in 2021. Her singles “Somebody’s Leavin'” and “What Else Can I Do” hit No. 1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart, and she has co-written singles and cuts for other artists such as Lady A (the No. 1 song “Champagne Night”), Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Michelle Wright, Emerson Drive, and The Rankin Family.

Another duet on the album pairs Rogers with his longtime friend, collaborator, and fellow icon, Dolly Parton.The duo, who began their chart-topping musical partnership with 1983’s “Islands In the Stream,” reunited in the studio in the mid-aughts to record “Tell Me That You Love Me.”Helmed by veteran producer and record exec Tony Brown (George Strait, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire), the song originally appeared on a 2009 compilation. Long out-of-print, a never-before-released, remixed version of the rarity is now available on digital platforms and vinyl for the very first time,as well as on CD for the first time in this remixed form. 

Those sessions with Brown also spawned Rogers’ moving rendition of “Goodbye,” written byanother good friend and frequent collaborator, Lionel Richie. The emotional song, which closes the album, offers fans a particularly poignant ending. The song has long been a fan favorite after first appearing on the same, aforementioned 2009 anthology; following Rogers’ death in 2020 at the age of 81 it became a comforting musical balm. A touching lyric video for the song was played at Rogers’ memorial in 2022. Watch the “Goodbye” lyric video here:

Rogers also delivers a standout take on Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.”The song features a newlyrecorded music bed, courtesy of Lehning (whose credits for Rogers span more than 40 years) and Krauss. Backed by an acoustic guitar, Rogers makes this classic ballad his own, while Lehning and Krauss bolster Rogers’ performance with gentle orchestration.

Am I Too Late,” written by Larry Keith and Jim Hurt, is one of Rogers’ self-proclaimed favorite songs of all time. Originally cut for Rogers’ 1977 hit album, Daytime Friends, the song isreimagined here as a duet with powerhouse vocalist Kim Keyes (Billy Joel, Amy Grant, Peter Cetera). “That’s Love To Me,” penned by Gary Burr and Jim Photoglo, is a beautiful quintessential Kenny Rogers love song. In the cinematic Legrand/Demy/Gimbel composition, “I Will Wait For You,” Rogers’ impassioned vocals shine: “Forevermore, I will wait for you/The clock will tick away the hours, one by one/Then the time will come when all the waiting’s done/The time when you return and find me here and run straight to my waiting arms.” 

The tracks on Life Is Like A Song feature production from a whole host of producers and co-producers, including Rogers himself,Tony Brown, Viktor Krauss, Kyle Lehning,and Brent Maher,as well as members of Rogers’ longtime band, Bloodline: Randy Dorman, Steve Glassmeyer(on the deluxe edition), Warren Hartman, and Chuck Jacobs. The album was executive produced by Wanda Rogers, Ken Levitan, and Jason Henke

Rogers’ six-decade legacy includes more than 120 hit singles and nearly 40 studio albums. One of the best-selling artists of all time with worldwide album sales topping 120 million, Rogers was the consummate crossover star who found vast success across the pop, country, AC, and rock charts. That versatility was evident in the singer, songwriter, and musician’s earliest recordings – from his doo-wop era (The Scholars, Kenneth Rogers) and work with Columbia Records jazz trio The Bobby Doyle Three, to his time as a member of the celebrated folk ensemble TheNew Christy Minstrels and, starting in 1967, with the eclectic psychedelic rock, country, folk, pop, and R&B band, The First Edition. After nearly a decade of hits with The First Edition, Rogers embarked on a solo career, during which he would soar to global superstardom, thanks to a string of chart-topping hits, including “Lucille” (1977), “The Gambler” (1978), “Lady” (1980), and “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton (1983).

Rogers, who also found success as an actor, entrepreneur, New York Timesbest-selling author, and photographer, officially retired in 2017. The recipient of the Horatio Alger Award in 1990, Rogers was an active philanthropist, including work with the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center, USA For Africa/”We Are The World,” and Hands Across America.His mighty and enduring influence was celebrated in a final, star-studded concert in Nashville,“All In For The Gambler,” which featured performances and tributes by Parton and Richie, plus Don Henley, Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, and Idina Menzel, among many others. During his lifetime, Rogers was honored with multiple GRAMMYS®, CMA, AMA, ACM, People’s Choice, and CMTMusic Awards. In 2013, he was among the first recipients of the CMA’s prestigious Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award (second only to its namesake). That same year, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.