Friday, March 1, 2019

A Window Above: The Gambler

Song: "The Gambler"
Writer: Don Schlitz
Original Release: 1978
Original Performer: Bobby Bare
Album: Bare

While on the Paris subway last summer, I made a joke to my wife and daughter that I would ask a group of buskers if they could sing "The Gambler."  This prompted a Google search for the French lyrics.  After all, the internet was invented for just such a quest.  It became a running joke of our trip.

No, I never did get up the nerve to ask them.

Now, "The Gambler" is one of the iconic songs of 1970s country music but it took a while for the song to catch on.  It took two years of shopping around for Schlitz to find a musician to record it.  Bobby Bare took it on at the urging of children's author Shel Silverstein, of all people but never released it as a single.  Johnny Cash gave it a shot, including it on his 1978 Gone Girl album - again, no single.

Finally, Kenny Rogers got a hold of it.  Whereas Cash's star had faded by the late '70s, Rogers was an industry titan.  "The Gambler" was the second of five consecutive singles to hit the top of the country charts for Rogers.  The record even enjoyed what was, at the time, rare crossover success, reaching #16 on the pop charts.  It is most assuredly the song most closely associated with Rogers now and the one most likely to carry his legacy into the future.

As one who's played a lot of poker over the past few years (see here), the advice in the song is good.

How could I not include the Muppets?

Bobby Bare's original:

Johnny Cash:

No, I never was able to find French lyrics.  But if you're interested, here's a link to a line-by-line translation.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?


  1. Roger's album with "The Gambler" on it was the first album (other than my two-record edition of the complete Star Wars soundtrack) I ever owned that was -my- record. All of the other records in the house (except the Star Wars one) belonged to my parents.

    1. I can't say I have ever been much into country, apart from a few songs here and there. I've been trying to broaden my horizons recently, though. Looking at the current scene, I would say country is actually a lot better than either pop or hip hop.

    2. Oh, I wasn't really into country at the time, just Kenny Rogers. I suppose I had a brief country period in the mid-90s. It was a combination of being tired of rock/pop at the time and Garth Brooks.

    3. I do love the old stuff - Johnny Cash and older is great.

  2. Dang! I was talking about songs we loved as we listened to "The Highway Men". The Gambler was one, Streets of Laredo, Delia (Cash's, crazy song)...So many. Thanks!

  3. You had me at Paris! I want to be in Paris right now...Ok back to earth..I like Johnny Cash's version better but, I like Johnny Cash:). Give me the Muppets any time and I just enjoy them every single time

    1. I love Johnny Cash, too, but those definitely weren't his best years.