When it comes to Country music, one of the great legends is Kenny Rogers. His songs make a simple 5 mile car drive one to cherish forever; especially if you’re playing his ballads. His best piece of work is, without a doubt, “Coward Of The County“. Not only did it win many awards, but also broke and remolded millions of hearts worldwide. His songs contains all the emotions possessed in nature – Happiness, Sadness, Revenge, Hatred, Lust, Honor, Loyalty and Bravery. This is the Number 2 song on my Best Ballads Ever list (Number 1 will be up in a few days though). So, let’s get to it!
History: “Coward Of The County” is a ballad recorded by Kenny Rogers. The reason I said ‘recorded’ is because the song was actually WRITTEN by Roger Bowling and Billy Ed Wheeler, and sung by Kenny Rogers. The song was released as the second single from his album titled “Kenny”, and was released on 12th November 1989. The song was one of Kenny Rogers’ best ones ever, and won recognition almost all over the world. It also did wonders on the music charts. It reached Number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, Number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and Number one on the UK pop chart. For the complete chart performance, click here. It also inspired Dick Lowry, who made a television series based on the song’s story line in 1981. For the full info, click here. The song has only one Version (Studio Version) having a duration of 4 Minutes 33 Seconds. [Source: Wikipedia]
What it tries to convey to us: It all begins when Tommy is 10 years old, and his father dies in prison (Nothing mentioned about his mother here). In his final minutes, he makes Tommy promise that he will not fall prey to any fight or whatsoever, because fighting won’t make him a man. Fortunately, the father has a brother who agrees to take care of Tommy and treat him like one of his own. The entire ballad is written as if Tommy’s uncle is narrating the story. Tommy is called ‘Yellow’ by all the other folks of the county, as yellow resembles cowardliness (Hats off to Kenny Rogers!). However, he has the love of his life by his side, who loves him unconditionally; her name being Becky. Once, three members of The Gatling Boys (The Rowdy gang of the County) make a move on Becky (In other words, they rape her). When Tommy sees her crying with the torn dress and the shattered look, it’s too much to handle for him. So he does what a real man would do. He takes the picture of his dad from above the fireplace, and silently cries and recalls his saying. But anger and vengeance take over him, and he decides to go to the local bar to confront the beastly gang, As he enters, one of the members of the Gatling Boys gets up and meets him halfway from the door. Tommy isn’t in a mood for a fight, but wants to settle things with them in a verbal manner; so he turns his back to the man. They mock him when he does so, and that’s exactly the trigger Tommy needs. Years of pain being bottled inside him, he stands up for his love and gives them a thrashing to remember for the rest of their lives; spitting on their ego.
Review: The meaning of the story is dead simple, but having the same magnitude of effect. The song has a slight hint of bass, drums and a banjo. The real star of the show is Kenny Rogers himself. The song starts and ends with the same lines (“Everyone Considered Him The Coward Of The County”), making it the signature. The song is extremely fast paced, although being a Country song. The vocals start at 00:11, followed by the first chorus, which starts at 01:05. The story keeps you hooked throughout the ballad. Kenny Rogers has a calm, but commanding voice which accentuates the song perfectly. Even though the stanza’s are awesome, the chorus’ deliver an equally superb blow. The second stanza starts with a slight change of tune and pitch, maybe because this stanza transforms Tommy forever. The chorus starts again at 02:27, and is followed immediately with the third stanza. This stanza is my personal favorite, because it is at that time when Tommy stands up for his love, and gives the Gatling Boys all he’s got. When Kenny Rogers narrates “He Wasn’t Holdin’ Nothin’ Back, He Let ‘Em Have It All”, he gives an edgier voice to the “Let ‘Em” words, which make you smile involuntarily. Whenever this part is playing, I always visualize Tommy throwing the hardest punch he can land on one of the Gatling Boys. It feels just like the time when a superhero gets a terrible beating from the super villain at first, but then retaliates just when he is losing, at beats the hell out of the bad guy; just a hundred times better. The chorus is altered just a bit this time, with Tommy saying that sometimes, you have to fight to be a man. The song ends with Kenny Rogers’ signing off in his signature style (Same sentence at the beginning and at the end) and saying “Everyone Considered Him The Coward Of The County”.
Rating: A Perfect 10/10! As always, Kenny Rogers has delivered yet another show stopping performance. Impeccable lyrics, fast moving story line, awesome vocals and an authentic taste of Country music. You have to listen to this one, guys!
Lyrics for “Coward Of The County” : http://artists.letssingit.com/kenny-rogers-lyrics-coward-of-the-county-kvgfsqm
Download link for “Coward Of The County” : http://totally80smusic.com/songs/1980/19%20-%20Kenny%20Rogers%20-%20Coward%20of%20the%20County.mp3