Written by Lionel Richie
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
November 14, 1980
#1 (1 week)
November 22, 1980
Despite their tremendous success together, Kenny Rogers was worried his sound was getting a bit stale. So following his No. 1 hit “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer,” Rogers made plans to replace producer and longtime collaborator Larry Butler. As he prepared to release Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits, he tapped into the talents of Commodores singer Lionel Richie, who was getting ready to launch his own massively successful crossover career.
The result of them working together was “Lady,” which topped both country charts for one week but spent a stunning six weeks atop the pop singles chart. We would get much more familiar with the signature sound of Lionel Richie, to the point that this now sounds like a Lionel Richie song as much as a Kenny Rogers song. But at the time, this was a new and fresh approach for both artists.
It’s fitting that this song topped the chart right after Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance,” because Rogers pulls off the same feat as a vocalist on his record as she does on hers. It’s a delicate, eloquent, and carefully delivered performance from Rogers. Richie’s songwriting and production challenged him to push beyond anything he’d tried as a singer before this, and he rises to that challenge, with exceptional phrasing that heightens the emotional impact of the lyric. It’s his finest performance as a vocalist among all of his major hits.
“Lady” fueled Rogers to the peak in his popularity. Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits topped the pop albums chart, a rarity for a country act at the time and one that wouldn’t be seen again until Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind eleven years later. It would eventually sell over twelve million copies in America alone, another country record that wouldn’t be broken until Brooks’ No Fences reached 13x platinum in 1995. Meanwhile, the arrangement of “Lady” would prove heavily influential on pop-flavored country. The piano hook was practically ripped off by Lonestar’s “Amazed” many years down the road.
Rogers will be on top again soon enough with his next single, featuring his favorite duet partner, Dottie West.
“Lady” gets an A.
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