The music world has been mourning the death of Kenny Rogers this week, who passed away Friday at the age of 81. On the latest episode of Bobby Bones’ podcast, the BobbyCast, he paid tribute to Rogers by talking about him and some of his accomplishments. Bones mentioned that he was personally saddened by the death of Rogers, as the singer was a good acquaintance of his. After chatting about Rogers’ life, Bobby talked on the phone with one of the singer’s greatest friends, Lionel Richie.
“Let me be very honest with you. I just lost one of my heroes,” Richie told Bones. “That is the best way I can describe Kenny.”
Richie goes on to say that he met Rogers while he was transitioning from his band The Commodores to his solo career and says he felt like “God sent me an angel” when he met him.
“This guy was probably one of the nicest guys I’d ever met in my life, and full of knowledge, full of life knowledge.” says Richie. “Everything that I was about to experience as a young kid, he had already been through it. It was just a beautiful relationship that blossomed into something called a friendship. We have lived a lot of life together.”
Richie, of course, wrote Rogers’ hit song, “Lady,” which he says was originally called “Baby” and was meant for The Commodores. The band ended up passing on it, and when Rogers called Richie in need of the perfect song, he pitched it to him. He made the name change on the spot while talking with Rogers about the song.
“He was telling me he had just gotten married, and he married a lady, a real lady. Like, ‘Lionel, what I am doing with a lady? Me of all people.’” says Richie. “He says, ‘Oh yeah, by the way, what’s the name of the song?’ I said, ‘Lady.’ I’m no fool.”
Richie then sang Roger the song, but he had only written half of it. The two then went into the studio to record another one of Richie’s songs when Rogers decided he wanted to record “Lady” right then and there. Richie explains that he still hadn’t finished the song, so he had to do some quick thinking.
“He sang the first verse and I said, ‘You know, I’ll be right back. I’ve got to go to the bathroom,’” he says. “And, so I’m now in the bathroom writing the second verse to ‘Lady.’ And of course the joke with Kenny was, ‘If you want to get a great hit record from Lionel Richie, make sure he writes the second verse in the bathroom.’”
Richie and Rogers also collaborated on the famous “We Are The World,” written by Richie and Michael Jackson. Bones then mentioned to how Richie has been so good to him since they’ve been working together on American Idol, and Richie attributes that kindness to artists like Kenny Rogers doing the same for him.
“I’ve been trained by some very famous people,” says Richie. “When I met Kenny Rogers, you couldn’t get any bigger than Kenny Rogers. That was ‘The Gambler’ I walked in on. And I must tell you, in less than 15 seconds, he made me feel like we grew up together back in Houston, Texas.”
To hear the full conversation between Bones and Richie, listen to episode #236 of the BobbyCast.