Tonight, A&E is airing back-to-back specials about country music superstars Kenny Rogers and Merle Haggard. Biography: Kenny Rogers airs at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, and it chronicles his life from childhood until his death. Lionel Richie, another superstar, opened up to talk about how Rogers called him his best friend.
Rogers passed away on March 20, 2020, and musicians from all genres opened up about his influence on their careers. Rogers didn’t write his own songs, having only released two songs with his name given songwriting credit, but he said he knew how to pick the types of songs that people would like.
“I’ve always said there’s one word synonymous with ‘hit,’ and that’s familiarity,” he said in 2013. “It’s not going to be a hit until everyone knows it. Not just recognizes it, but can sing it.”
Richie wrote Rogers’ power ballad “Lady,” and the two had been friends ever since.
Richie Thought of Rogers as an Older Brother
Rogers and Richie met in 1980 when Richie was still with the group the Commodores. He’d actually written “Lady” for them, but they didn’t want it, he told People. Then, when the song came out after Rogers recorded it, it was a number one hit.
Richie began to lean on Rogers from that point on, looking at him as a mentor and a friend. Their relationship continued over the next forty years. Richie referred to them as the “oddest of odd couples. Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, whatever you want to call it.”
Richie has since credited Rogers thanking him by name when accepting an award at the American Music Awards as the beginning of his solo career.
“Everything that happened in my life, truthfully, from that moment on, had a Kenny Rogers stamp on it,” Richie said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. When I was going through everything, leaving the Commodores, trying to be a solo artist, trying to figure out what that means – he was that guy.”
Richie Said Rogers Called Him His Best Friend
Richie sang “Lady” during the ACM Presents: Our Country concert as a tribute to Rogers.
“What started out to be a great collaboration between two guys, Kenny Rogers and myself, ended up giving me a surprise. Not only did we have a hit record, but I found one of the greatest friends I ever had in my whole life. The loss of him is tremendous on my heart,” Richie said at the time.
He continued, “We lived so much life together, and I tonight I want to celebrate his life. And I want to say to all of his fans: He enjoyed the ride. Let us celebrate his life, his legacy, and more importantly, the music. God bless you, Kenny. God bless your family. I love you very much.”
When Rogers passed away, Richie posted on Instagram to express his grief. He wrote, “Today I lost one of my closest friends. So much laughter so many adventures to remember, my heart is broken. My prayers go out to Kenny’s family.”
He previously said on an episode of The Bobby Bones Show that Richie considered him his best friend.