Kenny Rogers died on Friday, March 20 at 81. The Country Hall of Fame singer first met his longtime friend Lionel Richie in 1980, not long after he had his first hits as a solo artist with “Lucille” and “The Gambler.” Rogers didn’t write songs. (In his entire career, he only released two songs with his own songwriting credit.) But, as he liked to say, he “knew how to pick ‘em.”
“I’ve always said there’s one word synonymous with ‘hit,’” Rogers said in 2013. “And that’s familiarity. It’s not going to be a hit until everyone knows it — not just recognizes it but can sing it.” Richie would write him a hit that people would sing all over the world.
In 1980, Richie was still with the group the Commodores and Rogers was looking for a power ballad. “I had written ‘Lady’ for the Commodores, and they didn’t want it,” Richie tells PEOPLE exclusively. “’Kenny wants to have the song,’ they told me.” Two weeks later, the song was finished. “When ‘Lady’ came out, it was an explosion onto the music scene.” A No. 1 hit — and an unlikely friendship — was forged. “It was a mutual …read more