Kenny Rogers - The Gambler

Telling a tale through music is one of the most beautiful joinings of the arts. The atmosphere-building in this song is done with supreme mastery. Every instrument is introduced at just the right time and is being kept on the stage for exactly as much as it should. For example there’s some delicate percussion starting at 0:28. It stays around for less than 20 seconds.

Kenny’s voice is just perfect for the story he’s telling. The reverb is used in ample amount, but again, ideal for the mood being conjured. As the song builds up, a choir joins voices with the singer, telling us important things about life from a gambler’s perspective. And this brings me to the lyrics. The song does very well at imparting life wisdom through the use of analogy.

This is probably the oldest song I’ve featured in my Weekly Song collection. The fact that it “made it” in this modern music listener’s subjective “best of” is sign of how actual this song still is. It also makes me want to find more “oldies but goldies” through the endless tail of the comet named Human Art.

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die
in your sleep”

I have one (very) personal comment regarding these last two verses. In this writer’s opinion, a lucid death under the sun is better. Preferably without excessive pain.

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