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Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Beard Bound For Nowhere


It was a spring night in the late ‘90s, on barge crossing the Dawson River in Dawson City, Yukon, at roughly 4am, when a half-dozen of us were singing The Gambler at the top of our lungs. It was light out – as the darkest it gets there at that time of year is twilight – and there was an RCMP car parked behind us with two amused cops in it, making the whole thing that much more ludicrous. Six of us had roadtripped in two trucks from Edmonton to Dawson, where we had a cabin to stay in, and this was the boozy pinnacle of our bonding experience.

I realize now that, aside from beard jokes and nostalgia for renting Six Pack in the early days of VHS, Kenny Rogers’ main purpose on this earth is to facilitate bonding experiences between drunken white dudes. You have to look long and hard to find someone who doesn’t understand the 1978 single is his pinnacle.

According to the Wikipedia, that disc has sold to date 35 million copies (the fact that The Gambler album has its own Wikipedia page is pretty funny too), giving him license to do a lot of “uncool” and not-so manly things, like wear white suits and emasculating sweaters, open fast food chicken restaurants, and guest star on TV shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Touched by and Angel, and still in some way be manly. Take away the song The Gambler, and I suspect he’d be considered a colossal pussy in league with guys like Randy Travis. In his defence, though, he does sing arguably the most important song on the Big Lebowski soundtrack, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), allowing for drunken bonding experiences among an entirely different set of white Dudes.

So, I was surfing around CNN tonight and came across a video clip of a recent morning show segment of the 68-year-old promoting his new album, and I realized something was off. It wasn’t strange that he seems to have gained a little weight, or that he was wearing a cheery blue pullover one Sweater Threat Level away from “Cosby,” but I was surprised that he’d shaved his beard into a goatee. I can’t recall ever seeing him without that iconic symbol of ‘70s masculinity (the face-rug once sported by James Brolin and still sported by Chuck Norris). Rogers’ jawline now more cherubic than angular, I wondered if he’d finally given up completely on the tough guy/Gambler-birthed image that’s defined the guy as long as I can remember.

More accurately, it’s probably that Kenny Rogers works better as a concept than an actual artist anyhow. Christ, check out these lyrics to his new single, I Can’t Unlove You (sample it for yourself on his official site). You’d think it was written by George Dubya.

I can’t unthink about you

I can’t unfeel your touch

I can’t unhear all the words, unsay all the things that used to mean so much

I wish I could unremember everything my heart’s been through

I’m finding out it’s impossible to do

It’s no use, I can’t unlove you

I wish I could somehow unread that. Jeesh, people complain about forces like the Internet and Ebonics “destroying language” – well, I’m pointing a finger at Kenny Rogers. It should be noted that he didn’t write the song, but in the CNN interview he says he’s always considered himself good at picking songs. What?!? Granted, the world seems to be getting collectively dumber, but this leads me to suspect Rogers was storing precious brain cells in his beard. I guess the only good thing about the song is that – hit or not – it’s so awkward lyrically there’s no way a bunch of white dudes could effectively sing it after getting drunk.

(If you're curious, the above portrait is made of seeds, and comes from here)

3 Comments:

Anonymous collin said...

I always thought his ballads never received the appropriate level of applause.
He blew Lionel Ritchie out of the water with his version of "Lady" and "your decorated my life" stands on a shelf well above the rhinestoned sap late 1970s Nashville.
You're thesis is correct though, Dave. In "Coward of the County" I learned that it was okay to beat people up, but only if they raped your girlfriend.
On a strange note, I once asked a girl out but she declined for that paricular friday night as she was going to see Kenny Rogers in Concert. I couldn't tell if she was going for ironic purposes, which somehow would have been more enchanting. The date in question was Sept. 11, 2002. Weird.
-Collin

2:43 PM

 
Anonymous eun said...

If you visit his website, you'll notice that the new Kenny facial fashion is actually wider than a typical goatee, especially around the bottom jaw, where it spreads out like a pair of bellbottoms. If I didn't know better, I'd call it a double-wide.

2:09 AM

 
Blogger Ladysir said...

Col. Roasters probably just wants to show off all that nip-and-tuck work he's had done. Maybe he was hiding some sort of elephant-man jaw under the beard all along.

http://www.insideeonline.com/news/gossip/20060214-597/kenny_rogers_doesnt_gamble_with_ageing.html

7:54 PM

 

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