About the song
If you are a fan of country music, you probably know the song “Coward of the County” by Kenny Rogers. It is one of his most iconic and successful hits, reaching the top of the charts in several countries and selling millions of copies. But do you know the meaning and the history behind this song?
“Coward of the County” is a story-song that tells the tale of Tommy, a young man who is considered a coward by everyone because he avoids fighting and violence. His father, who died in prison when Tommy was 10 years old, had asked him to “turn the other cheek” and “walk away from trouble when he can”. Tommy follows his father’s advice until one day, his girlfriend Becky is raped by three men called the Gatlin boys. Tommy then decides to stand up for her and confronts the Gatlins in a bar, where he beats them up in a fight.
The song was written by Roger Bowling and Billy Edd Wheeler, who wanted to create a story that showed the triumph of the underdog. Bowling came up with the title, and Wheeler helped him flesh out the plot. They wrote the song in 1979 and pitched it to Kenny Rogers, who was already a superstar in both country and pop music. Rogers liked the song and recorded it for his album Kenny, which was released in November 1979.
The song was a huge hit for Rogers, becoming his second single from the album. It topped the Billboard Country chart and reached number three on the Hot 100 chart. It also topped the charts in Canada, Ireland, and the UK, where it stayed at number one for six consecutive weeks. The song was certified gold by the RIAA and sold over two million copies worldwide.
The song also sparked some controversy because of the mention of the “Gatlin boys” in the lyrics. Some people thought that it was a reference to the Gatlin Brothers, a popular country music group at the time. However, both Rogers and Wheeler denied that they had any intention of insulting or mocking the Gatlins. Larry Gatlin, the leader of the group, said that he liked the song and had no problem with it. He also claimed that Bowling had a personal grudge against him for some reason, but he did not know why.
“Coward of the County” is a classic example of Kenny Rogers’ storytelling ability and his appeal to a wide range of listeners. It is a song that combines drama, emotion, and morality in a catchy and memorable way. It is also a song that has inspired many people to stand up for themselves and their loved ones when they face injustice or danger.