Great songwriting knows no genre.
So often in Kenny Rogers’ iconic country music career, his hits were penned by artists whose traditional output existed far outside the country spectrum. Especially in the midst of his 1980s-era countrypolitan explosion, “The Gambler’s” songwriting inspirations could often be found doing anything but donning a cowboy hat and sliding into boots.
Alongside his 1981 smash “Lady” being written by pop legend Lionel Richie, and disco dynamos The Bee Gees having a hand in writing Rogers’ 1983 Dolly Parton duet “Islands In The Stream,” there’s one other Rogers song penned — though likely unnoticed — by a music superstar.
If looking at the credits of Kenny Rogers’ 1986-released, fourteenth studio album They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To, the writer of the third track, “You’re My Love,” is credited as Joey Coco. One could think that fifty million albums sold and a decade into a lucrative, superstar solo career, it’d be a fine time to give an unproven Nashville songwriter a shot. However, that’s not the case.
Regarding “You’re My Love’s” roots, Rogers once noted in an interview, “Back in the Eighties, I had contacted [Prince] through a mutual friend to ask if he would write me a song…and he did,” Rogers says. “When he sent the song to me, if I remember right, it was him playing all of the instruments on it, and he had his background vocals on it. Unfortunately, on the finished record, somehow, my producer didn’t end up using the music or vocals (the song was re-cut). It was such an incredible thing that Prince took the time to do that for me. He was a brilliant guy and a gifted musician with a lot of feelings, and you could tell his feelings went far deeper than what was written on his face.”
Rolling Stone notes that “You’re My Love” is a “slick eighties power ballad” that “at first listen does not boast many similarities to Prince himself — though there are licks of the heartfelt love odes he was indeed so capable of.” Intriguing to mention as well is that the song features backing vocals from El DeBarge—an R & B star in his own right from that era According to Prince fanatics, this is the only thing that remained from Prince’s original recording.
The Purple one’s 80s era songwriting chops are the stuff of legend. Between 1980-1990, Prince sold 50 million albums over 10 studio LPs. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 known songs that have been released from that era via various pressings of these albums. During the same period, Prince also wrote and produced songs for Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, Chaka Khan, Sheena Easton, Madonna, Patti LaBelle, The Time, Vanity, and Apollonia 6, among many.
As much as Rogers was likely to believe that Prince wrote “You’re My Love” specifically for him, that may not entirely be true. However, the fact that it could very well be Rogers-inspired is entirely possible. Historical research through Prince’s archives shows that Prince wrote “You’re My Love” in 1981, five years prior to its release, and recorded and tracked his version of the song—that he later sent to Rogers—in March 1982.
Between Nov. 15, 1980 and Dec. 27, 1980, “Lady” (Kenny Rogers’ Lionel Richie-written hit) was simultaneously in the top 40s or near the top of Billboard’s country, Hot 100, R & B, and adult contemporary music charts. To say that Kenny Rogers was ubiquitous enough as a presence to influence even Prince is certainly more than possible.
Impressively enough, Rogers’ take on Prince’s songwriting was not a number-one hit. However, in June 1987, a re-recorded duet of the song was included as the b-side of Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers’ single “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine.” That version proved to be one that reached the top of Billboard’s country charts.