Kenny Rogers released the 28th and final studio album of his lifetime with 2015's Once Again It's Christmas. On June 2, UMe will celebrate the late superstar's musical legacy with a posthumous release featuring eight previously unreleased tracks and two rarities. Life Is Like a Song, coming on CD, vinyl, and digital formats, has been curated and executive produced by his widow Wanda Rogers. It's also Rogers' first studio album to debut on vinyl in the U.S. since 1991.
Life Is Like a Song is built around those eight never-before-heard recordings spanning 2008-2011. Rogers didn't release any full-length studio albums between 2006's Water and Bridges and 2011's The Love of God (which was expanded by UMe in 2022). Rogers brought his familiar, distinctive, and lived-in vocals to Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" and The Temptations' Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong/Rodger Penzabene standard "I Wish I Would Rain" (both of which feature new instrumentation from producers Kyle Lehning and Viktor Krauss) and to a perhaps more unexpected cover of "I Will Wait for You," the lovely Academy Award-nominated tune by Michel Legrand, Jacques Demy, and American lyricist Norman Gimbel from director Demy's film musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Kenny was always a sympathetic duet partner to his old New Christy Minstrels pal Kim Carnes; here, he sings her "Love Is a Drug" and revisits Larry Keith and Jim Hurt's "Am I Too Late." The latter was first recorded by Rogers on 1977's Daytime Friends; this version features singer Kim Keyes. Australian country singer Jamie O'Neal appears on the new duet "Straight Into Love."
The most high-profile collaborator on the set is Rogers' longtime friend Dolly Parton. They'd teamed up numerous times over the years including on the chart-topping "Islands in the Stream," the Once Upon a Christmas album, and 2013's chart single "You Can't Make Old Friends." Dolly joins Kenny here on "Tell Me That You Love Me," which was first issued on the 2009 Time Life box set The First 50 Years. Produced by Tony Brown, it's featured on Life Is Like a Song in a new remix. The poignant, Lionel Richie-penned "Goodbye" (also helmed by Brown) hailed from that same box; it was reissued as a digital single following Rogers' 2020 death and also gets a reprise on this new album. (The third exclusive song on The First 50 Years, "Loving You Is a Natural Thing to Do," is not part of the new package.)
The most personal track on the new LP may well be "Catchin' Grasshoppers," written by Laura McCall Torno and Earl Torno and sung to Kenny's twin sons with Wanda Rogers, Justin and Jordan. Produced by Kenny and Randy Dorman of his backing band Bloodline, the song is among the artist's most vulnerable. Two additional tracks will be available only on the Target-exclusive CD and digital edition: a cover of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren's "At Last" (a No. 2 hit for Glenn Miller in 1942 that's perhaps best known today in Etta James' bluesy 1960 reinvention) and Buddy Hyatt's original song "Say Hello to Heaven."
Wanda Rogers shares in the press release, "I think the record is fabulous, and it is going to make Kenny so proud. These songs are such a beautiful reminder of his love 'for the feelings a song can make' for a person. He would often say that he wanted his songs to be 'what every man wants to say, and every woman wants to hear.' I think there are a lot of those moments on this album. This is a very special record to me and our family because it really tells the story of our life together, and I feel his fans will also relate to it in a big way because it walks the listener through the seasons of life that we all experience in one way or another. There is joy, there is love, there is family, there is uncertainty, there is pain, there is faith... it's emotional and real. This is the kind of music Kenny loved to make."
Two tracks from Life Is Like a Song are currently streaming: the rousing "Love Is a Drug" and the melancholic "I Wish It Would Rain." The full album hits stores on June 2. You'll find the track listing and pre-order links below.
Kenny Rogers, Life Is Like a Song (UMe, 2023)
- Love Is a Drug
- I Wish It Would Rain
- Am I Too Late (with Kim Keyes)
- Tell Me That You Love Me (with Dolly Parton) (original mix from The First 50 Years, Time Life 509999-67170-2-8, 2009)
- Straight Into Love (with Jamie O'Neal)
- Wonderful Tonight
- Catchin' Grasshoppers
- That's Love to Me
- I Will Wait for You
- Goodbye (original mix from The First 50 Years, Time Life 509999-67170-2-8, 2009)
- Say Hello to Heaven (Target and Digital Bonus Track)
- At Last (Target and Digital Bonus Track)