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Kenny Rogers on his life, his music and the man who wrote The Gambler

Kenny Rogers saw ups and downs during his long career as a musician, but he gained perspective from that on how to deal with it all.

Country music star talked to CBC's Midday in 1999 while promoting his latest album

In 1999, country music star Kenny Rogers talked to CBC's Midday about his life and his long career in the music business. 4:23

As Kenny Rogers once famously sang in The Gambler, you've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

It seemed the Houston-born country singer, who recently died at age 81, took that advice to heart during his life.

At least, he seemingly followed that advice when it came to holding onto a connection with Don Schlitz, the man who wrote that career-defining song for him.

Because two decades after the Rogers-recorded version of The Gambler was played over and over again, Schlitz and the country star were working together again — with Rogers having recorded a Schlitz-penned song called The Greatest.

"He really has become one of the most prolific country songwriters and The Gambler was actually his first country song he'd ever written," Rogers told CBC's Midday, when appearing on the news program to promote his latest album in 1999.

"And the year he won all the awards ... he came up and he had on his rock 'n' roll T-shirt for the Country Music Awards and he says: 'This is my first country song and I find all this very encouraging.'"

'Everything gets a second chance'

In this March 22, 1979 file photo, Kenny Rogers, centre, rolls the dice at Regine's in New York. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

But Rogers understood the business, which had embraced a more contemporary kind of sound for a while, and believed he'd been given an opening to make a return to the spotlight.

"The trick in this business, quite honestly, is to be able to sustain until you recycle because ultimately everything gets a second chance," Rogers told Midday.

"I just had to wait until the right song came along to where country music was ready to hear something different. And obviously, if you have the right song, they'll play it."

When appearing on Midday, Rogers had come through a tougher period of his career when his music had not been as popular as it once had been.

The singer seemed grateful to have a platform to share some new material, in addition to his well-established catalogue — one that he acknowledged would always be part of his performances.

"I've had some wonderful hits and I'll do 'em the rest of my life and enjoy doing them, but you become almost a retro act — an act from the '70s, an act from the '80s or whatever," he said.

'Success is no reason to quit'

Midday co-host Tina Srebotnjak is seen talking to country singer Kenny Rogers about his life and long career int the music business. (Midday/CBC Archives)

And after all those years of performing, Rogers said he still liked doing what he was doing on stage.

"I have a famous quote now that's been attributed to me and I think it's really true that success is no reason to quit," he told Midday.

"That, truthfully, it gets more fun and easier, the more successful you get. You get to pick and choose the venues you want to work and you can work as often or as little as you want to."

He also said the money wasn't what kept people in the music business in the long term.

"I defy you to find me someone that says they were the happiest when they were making the most money. It's about the love of what you're doing," he said.

"Those of them who don't really get into music because they love music, don't wait around long enough for the success because you have to stay there whether the money is there or not, in order to survive, ultimately."