Willie Nelson pays touching tribute to Kenny Rogers – ‘Him and I were big pals’

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It’s been four months since country music legend Kenny Rogers tragically passed away at the age of 81.

Now, his good buddy Willie Nelson is speaking out to pay tribute to him, and he had a surprising story to tell about the late singer.

While appearing on the TODAY show on Tuesday, Nelson told host Jenna Bush Hager that he nearly recorded “The Gambler,” which ended up being one of Rogers’ most popular and enduring songs.

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“Through the years, him and I were big pals,” Nelson said.

“In fact, he tried to get me to record ‘The Gambler.’”

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“The Gambler ended up being one of Rogers’ biggest hits, reaching number one on the charts when it came out in 1978 and earning him a Grammy Award for best country vocal performance the next year. It would become Rogers’ signature song, and he even developed it into a series of television movies in which he starred.

“We were somewhere, I don’t know, and he was like, ‘I’ve got this song, I think you should do it,’ and he played it for me and I said, ‘You know, I think it’s a great song, but I don’t think I’ll do it,’ because, I was doing, every night, a song called ‘Red Headed Stranger’ which has 100 verses in it,” Nelson explained.

“I said ‘I just don’t want to do another long song,’ so he said, ‘OK, I will record it myself,’ and so he did and, you know, there it is.”

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When asked if he regrets turning down “The Gambler” when it went on to become so successful, Nelson didn’t hesitate to dismiss the idea, saying “that was Kenny’s song all the way.”

Nelson has not slowed down one bit at 87 years of age, as he just released his 70th studio album “First Rose of Spring.”

“I enjoy making records and being in the studio and playing and singing and yes, I still enjoy writing,” Nelson added, making it clear that he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Fox News reported that upon his death, Rogers was survived by his beloved wife Wanda, and his sons Justin, Jordan, Chris and Kenny Jr., as well as two brothers, a sister and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

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