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Famed singer Kenny Rogers has died

Brandon Moseley

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Famed singer, songwriter, actor, and businessman Kenneth Ray Rogers died Friday. He was 81. Rogers was elected to the County Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Rogers is best known as a country music star; but his career ran the gamut from country to pop to an early career that included jazz, folk, and rock and roll. Rogers charted more than 120 hit singles across various music genres. He topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone and sold over 100 million records worldwide during his lifetime.

Rogers was born in Houston, Texas in 1938 the fourth child of eight. His father was a carpenter and his mother was a nurse’s assistant.

Rogers began his recording career in the mid-1950s with the Houston-based group the Scholars. They released “The Poor Little Doggie”. Rogers then released some solo recordings including 1958’s “That Crazy Feeling.” Rogers joined a group with the jazz singer Bobby Doyle. Rogers also worked as a producer, writer and session musician for other performers, including Mickey Gilley and Eddy Arnold.

In 1966 he became a member of the folk ensemble the New Christy Minstrels in which he played double bass and bass guitar as well as was a singer. In 1967, he and several members of the New Christy Minstrels left to found the group the First Edition. They recorded his first major hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, a psychedelic rock song which peaked at number five on the Billboard charts. Rogers gradually took on more of a leadership role in the group and he moved the group to more of country sound, including 1969’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” The group was eventually renamed Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. The group had hits including: “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” “But You Know I Love You”, “Tell It All, Brother”, “Reuben James”, and “Something’s Burning”.

First Edition disbanded in 1976, and Rogers launched his solo career that bridged pop and country. Some of his early top singles included: “Love Lifted Me”, “While the Feeling’s Good”, “Runaway Girl,” “Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got).”

He scored a major hit with the single “Lucille” in 1977. It reached number one on the pop charts in 12 countries, selling over five million copies, and establishing Rogers as a superstar. More success followed, including the multi-platinum selling album The Gambler and another international Number 1 single, “Coward of the County.”

In the late 1970s, Rogers teamed up with close friend and Country Music legend Dottie West for a series of albums and duets. The duo won two gold records, two CMA Awards, an ACM nomination, two Grammy nominations and 1 Music City News Award for their two hit albums Every Time Two Fools Collide (No. 1) and Classics (No. 3). Their hits together “Every Time Two Fools Collide”, “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight”, “What Are We Doin’ in Love”, “All I Ever Need Is You”, and “Till I Can Make It On My Own.” West was killed in a car accident in 1991 at age 58. In 1995 he starred as himself, alongside Michele Lee as West, in the CBS biographical film Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story.

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In 1980, he recorded as a duet with Kim Carnes, “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” and a duet with Lynda Carter “You and Me” in her television music special. He also partnered with Alabama legend Lionel Ritchie who wrote and produced Rogers’ No. 1 hit “Lady”. Richie also went on to produce Rogers’ 1981 album Share Your Love. Ritchie and Michael Jackson sang backup on Rogers’ hit “Goin back to Alabama.”

His first Christmas album was also released that same year. In 1982, Rogers released the album Love Will Turn You Around. The country music chart topping title song was the theme song of Rogers’ 1982 film Six Pack. In 1983, Rogers recorded “We’ve Got Tonight”, a duet with Sheena Easton.

Rogers work with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees who produced his 1983 hit album Eyes That See in the Dark, featuring “Islands in the Stream”, a duet with Dolly Parton. Rogers reunite with Parton in 1984 for a holiday album, Once Upon a Christmas and TV special Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember (which resulted in a popular video of “Christmas Without You”), as well as a 1985 duet “Real Love.” The two collaborated on occasional projects for years, including a 2013 duet single “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”

Rogers album What About Me? Featured the title track—a trio performance with James Ingram and Kim Carnes—was nominated for a Grammy Award; the single “Crazy” also topped the country charts. Rogers 1985 album The Heart of the Matter was another success. Hits including “Twenty Years Ago”, “Morning Desire”, “Tomb of the Unknown Love”, followed. In 1985 Rogers was one of the 45 artists who recorded the worldwide charity song “We Are the World” to support hunger victims in Africa. That was recorded at Rogers studio in Los Angeles.

In 1988, Rogers won a Grammy Award for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” with Ronnie Milsap—”Make No Mistake, She’s Mine”. Rogers recorded “The Factory” and “Crazy In Love”, “If You Want To Find Love”, and “The Greatest”. His second Christmas album, titled Christmas in America, was released in 1989 for Reprise Records. From 1991–94, Rogers hosted The Real West on A&E, with reruns playing on The History Channel since 1995.

Rogers co-owned and headlined Branson, Missouri’s 4,000 seat Grand Palace Theatre. In 1994, Rogers released his “dream” album titled Timepiece consisted of 1930s/1940s jazz standards, the type of music he had performed in his early days with Bobby Doyle. In 1996, Rogers released an album Vote For Love where the public requested their favorite love songs and Rogers performed the songs. Several of his own hits were in the final version.

In 1999, Rogers scored with the single “The Greatest”. In 1999, Rogers also produced a song, “We’ve Got It All”, specifically for the series finale of the ABC show Home Improvement. In 2000 he topped the country charts at age 61 with the single “Buy Me a Rose.”. Rogers released a new album, Water & Bridges, in March 2006. “I Can’t Unlove You” peaked at No. 17 on the country charts.

On April 10, 2010, a TV special was taped, Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years. Dolly Parton and Lionel Richie were among those set to perform with Rogers during a show celebrating his contribution to country, blues and pop music. In 2013, Rogers recorded a new album with the name You Can’t Make Old Friends. Rogers recorded 65 albums and sold over 165 million records. Rogers’ final concert in Nashville took place on October 25, 2017, at the Bridgestone Arena.

Rogers was also a successful actor. His 1982 he placed a racecar driver in the movie Six Pack. That movie took in more than $20 million at the box office. He starred in several made-for-TV movies such as The Gambler series, Christmas in America, and Coward of the County.

Rogers was married five times and had five children. His fifth marriage was to Wanda Miller on June 1, 1997. They had twin sons and were married for 22 years until his death.

Several artists made their big break in the business opening for Kenny Rogers including Garth Brooks and Montgomery’s Donica Knight.

“Anybody that grew up in the era that I grew up in, Kenny Rogers was a pop artist,” Brooks told Billboard Magazine. “Kenny would tell you if he stood in front of a country crowd, he felt so pop, and if he stood in front of a pop crowd, he felt so country. It wasn’t like Kenny Rogers was one of my heroes. But giving the [opening slot] in the northeast to somebody in a cowboy hat was an opportunity that [Brooks’ manager] Bob Doyle said, “You do not want to miss. There’s no other way you’re going to get up there.”

“Kenny Rogers, by working with him, became one of my heroes,” Brooks said. “Just watching how he treated his band, his guys, everybody, they’d all been with him for 100 years. It was like, “This is how you do it.” I’m really, really thankful that Bob was smart enough to tell me to get on that tour. Then when it came time for entertaining, he was amazing.” “Off the road, he was always with his band and crew. They’d play basketball. They’d do everything. That strengthening, that treating it like a sports team and having team dinners and stuff was great. We have at least one, maybe two guys, off that tour with us because they were such high-quality people.”

“I just enjoyed how honest he was,” Brooks said. “He wasn’t a fake person. Who you saw on the stage was who you saw in sweats offstage.” “There was no way you could be around him and not learn something. He was one of the most successful artists on the planet. If you want to do record sales, look at “The Gambler” and go, “Oh, okay, you can sell that many?” Because I think that sold something stupid like 13 or 14 million. It sure showed all of us that country artists can do this as well.”

Country music fan and Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board member Perry O. Hooper Jr. issued a statement on Rogers’ passing.

“While it is a somber day for American music, and me personally, we all can rejoice in Kenny’s 20 Number 1 hits, three Grammys and his 60 years of touring,” Hooper said.

Hooper saw Rogers perform for the first time when Rogers was the lead singer for First Edition.

“I had the opportunity to watch them perform live their big number 1 hit ‘I Just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.’ at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum,” Hooper said. “Little did I know at the time that I was watching live a performer who would become an American icon.”

“It’s Ironic that some of his biggest hits were duets performed with legends such as Alabama Music Hall of Fame member Lionel Richie, Dollie Parton, Shenna Easton, and Ronnie Milsap,” Hooper continued. “He partnered for two years with country music star Dottie West whose show I was fortunate to catch once again at Garrett Coliseum.”

“In 2016 a year before he stopped touring, I was able to meet him,” Hooper said. “My friend Donica Knight was the opening act for his performance at Montgomery’s MPAC Theater and I met him backstage. He could not have been more gracious and down to earth He showed genuine interest in Donica’s career.”

“‘You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them’ Will go down as one of the most quoted lines in music history,” Hooper said. “He was one of the rare performers that was a success in three separate genres of music. Folk, Rock and Country. He may be gone but he will never be forgotten.“

 

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Supreme Court sides with Alabama in COVID-19 voting case

Brandon Moseley

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The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision Thursday blocked a federal district judge’s order that would have made it easier for many Alabamians to vote during the pandemic, issuing an emergency stay of the lower court’s injunction in People First of Alabama v. Merrill.

The court’s more liberal justices dissented, while the five conservative justices voted to strike down the lower court ruling, which had blocked absentee ballot witness requirements in a few Alabama counties and a statewide ban on curbside voting programs.

The decision to grant the stay means that Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s ban on curbside voting remains in place, and he may intervene into any county in Alabama to prevent curbside voting.

Voters in every county in the state must still follow all the required witness, notary and photo ID requirements for absentee ballots.

Federal District Judge Abdul Kallon had found in favor of the plaintiffs and issued an order allowing local officials to implement curbside voting. Merrill and the secretary of state’s office appealed the lower court ruling to the Supreme Court, who issued the emergency stay.

The court could still hear Alabama’s appeal, but the ruling was a blow for the groups representing the plaintiffs in the case. Caren Short is the senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“While we are deeply disappointed with today’s ruling, we look forward to presenting our clients’ case at trial later this summer,” said Short. “Our goal is simple though unfortunately at odds with Alabama officials. We want to ensure that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama voters will not be forced to choose between exercising their fundamental right to vote and protecting their health or the health of a loved one.”

Deuel Ross is the senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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“We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court‘s stay,” said Ross. “Unfortunately, this means that Alabama voters who are at greater risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 will be required to risk their health and violate CDC recommendations in order to vote on July 14. This is occurring at a time when COVID-19 infections are soaring in Alabama and nationwide. Nonetheless, the litigation will continue and we intend to seek relief for our clients and other voters in time for November.”

Plaintiffs argued that making voters go to the polls and wait in line to show a photo-ID would be a bar to voting given the fear of the coronavirus in Alabama. Voters will have to decide whether voting in the July 14 party runoff elections is really worth the risk of possibly contracting the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and possibly dying.

At least 14 Alabamians died from COVID-19 on Thursday, taking the state death toll to 961. Additionally, 1,162 Alabamians tested positive for the coronavirus.

The state argues that voter ID and other security measures are necessary to protect the integrity of the vote and prevent voting fraud. Since his election as Alabama secretary of state, Merrill has said that it is his goal to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

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Congress

Jones calls for more federal funding, support for state departments of labor

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today is urging Senate leadership for additional federal funding and support for state departments of labor, which have been overwhelmed by the wave of unemployment insurance claims. This also comes as disturbing reports emerge out of Montgomery, where Alabamians have been camping out overnight outside of an unemployment claims center in search of help with their claims.

“As the nation continues to struggle with the health and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress must do more to help those who are suffering from unemployment as a result. Alabama’s unemployment rate in May was 9.9%, and my home state is facing a 70% increase in the evictions of renters,” Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, wrote. “This hardship is sadly not unique to Alabama, and Americans across the country are struggling to pay their bills, to keep the lights on, and to put food on their tables.

A recent article in the Montgomery Advertiser detailed a line of unemployed Alabamians that has formed for weeks in a parking lot outside an Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) claim processing center, with many sleeping outside overnight in the rain or participating in a “black market” system of selling spots in the line.

“While the ADOL has noted that an in-person presence is not required to file or resolve unemployment claims, technical glitches and difficulties reaching ADOL staff have so frustrated claimants that for many, traveling to Montgomery seems to be the only remaining option. These claimants seek such urgent relief that they have been camping out overnight in the hopes that their claims will be resolved.  To make matters worse, Alabama’s unemployment fund is on track to become insolvent within the next month or two,” Senator Jones continued.

“As we continue to observe the grave status of unemployment and its repercussions on our nation, I urge the leadership of the Senate to consider including language that addresses unemployment issues in the next pandemic relief legislation in July. I respectfully urge the inclusion of language providing greater availability of federal funds for state Departments of Labor, to ensure that hardworking Americans can rely on temporary monetary aid to help feed their families and keep a roof over their heads during these trying times,” the letter concluded.

Senator Jones has been a strong advocate for support for working Alabamians throughout the COVID-19 crisis. He has introduced legislation to cover the wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved, and during the negotiations for the CARES Act, he proposed the Small Business Lifeline fund to direct financial assistance to workers through payroll processing companies. Senator Jones has also called for the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration to allow payroll processing companies to disburse the CARES Act small business loans to reduce complications and expedite salaries to workers who have been impacted by the coronavirus.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

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As the nation continues to struggle with the health and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress must do more to help those who are suffering from unemployment as a result. Alabama’s unemployment rate in May was 9.9%, and my home state is facing a 70% increase in the evictions of renters.  This hardship is sadly not unique to Alabama, and Americans across the country are struggling to pay their bills, to keep the lights on, and to put food on their tables.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs during this pandemic, and have turned to the unemployment benefits provided by programs in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These newly created programs have created a much-needed lifeline for folks across the country. Most notably, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program were created to ensure states would be able to expand coverage of unemployment benefits given the outsized nature of the pandemic on employment.

However, the majority of State Departments of Labor have been experiencing great difficulties in updating their technical systems to withstand the sudden influx of numerous claims, disbursing benefit payments efficiently to claimants, and effectively communicating with claimants who may be frustrated with the speed at which their claims are processed.

The Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) has disbursed nearly $2 billion in COVID-19 related unemployment compensation benefits under the PUA, FPUC, and PEUC programs. While ADOL has been working incredibly hard for Alabamians, phone call lines remain jammed, and benefits take significant time to process. ADOL has received 576,314 unemployment claims to date, and the Department is staffed enough to field less than 4% of the calls it receives per day. Since the crisis began, ADOL typically receives 210,000 calls per day; yet only 6,000 to 7,000 of those calls can be processed each day.

Put simply, ADOL is overwhelmed by the massive influx of claims. An article in the Montgomery Advertiser, enclosed with this letter, details the difficulties that Alabamians are experiencing.  In an effort to address claims more efficiently, ADOL opened an in-person claims center in Montgomery, Alabama, but it too was inundated by the unmanageable number of claimants.  While the ADOL has noted that an in-person presence is not required to file or resolve unemployment claims, technical glitches and difficulties reaching ADOL staff have so frustrated claimants that for many, traveling to Montgomery seems to be the only remaining option. These claimants seek such urgent relief that they have been camping out overnight in the hopes that their claims will be resolved.  To make matters worse, Alabama’s unemployment fund is on track to become insolvent within the next month or two.

This is not the first time in recent times that state unemployment funds were in need of aid from the federal government. During the Great Recession, states that exhausted unemployment benefit funds were able to borrow from the Treasury Department to strengthen their funds. Given these dire economic times for state and local governments, the ability to access federal funds should be available once again to cover the costs associated with unemployment benefits.

As we continue to observe the grave status of unemployment and its repercussions on our nation, I urge the leadership of the Senate to consider including language that addresses unemployment issues in the next pandemic relief legislation in July. I respectfully urge the inclusion of language providing greater availability of federal funds for state Departments of Labor, to ensure that hardworking Americans can rely on temporary monetary aid to help feed their families and keep a roof over their heads during these trying times.

Sincerely,

Senator Doug Jones

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Byrne opposes Democratic infrastructure bill

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, this week voted against a Democratic infrastructure bill — H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act — which he said was crafted without any input from Republicans.

“Democrats and Republicans have traditionally worked together to craft highway bills, but Speaker Pelosi continues to allow even bipartisan priorities like road and bridge funding bills to become vehicles for her radical agenda,” Byrne said, “As the Democrat Chairman noted, this bill is simply the radical Green New Deal disguised as a highway bill. In fact, this bill would fund partisan priorities totally unrelated to transportation infrastructure, and I cannot support such reckless spending of taxpayer dollars. The American people need a highway bill, and we will need both parties at the table working together to give them one.”

“The Democrat Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and lead author of this bill responded to Republican criticism by acknowledging it seeks to implement “the principles of the Green New Deal,” Byrne concluded.

The Democratic controlled House passed H.R. 2, but even before it had passed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said that the bill would not be voted on in the Senate.

“So naturally this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate,” McConnell said. “It will just join the list of absurd House proposals that were only drawn up to show fealty to the radical left.”

The $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan would provide billions to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, but it also funds broadband, schools and hospitals. It would also force states to commit to reducing greenhouse gases and other climate measures in order to get any of the road money.

President Donald Trump threatened to veto the bill if it gets that far.

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, also voted against H.R. 2.

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“Nancy Pelosi & her Socialist comrades are hellbent on destroying America,” Brooks claimed. “They won’t stop spending until America is bankrupt. They covet economic disaster so they can rebuild a Socialist America under the guise of providing economic relief. In this instance, Socialism comes cloaked as an infrastructure bill.”

Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He is not seeking another term in Congress.

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After long lines, in-person unemployment assistance will be appointment only

Eddie Burkhalter

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After news accounts of people driving across Alabama to camp out in a Montgomery parking lot overnight in hopes of getting help with their unemployment claims, the Alabama Department of Labor on Thursday announced new guidelines for seeing a worker in person. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting large numbers of unemployed seeking help left the state’s Department of Labor struggling to process the thousands of applications that pour in daily.

The department said in a Facebook post Thursday that instead of continuing seeing people on a first come, first serve basis, beginning Monday, July 6, people will now have to make an appointment to be seen. Only 300 appointments will be available daily. 

The department has also changed the location to receive assistance from the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the campus of Alabama State University to the Crump Senior Community Center, located at 1751 Cong W L Dickinson Drive in Montgomery. 

To register for an appointment, visit the department’s website here. Slots for appointments will be at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Face masks are mandatory and temperatures will be taken on site, according to the department’s post.

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