July 31

Here’s The Story Behind Kenny Rogers’ Timeless Ballad, “Through the Years”

A ballad about a longtime couple who’ve stuck together through thick and thin became one of Kenny Rogers’ career-defining songs. Taken from the album Share Your Love and released as a single in 1981, “Through The Years” peaked No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart and No. 5 on the country chart.

The Story Behind The Song “Through The Years”

Many of Kenny Rogers songs and ballads just sound timeless, and “Through The Years” stood out among the rest.

Written by Steve Dorff and Marty Panzer, the song looked back at a relationship “Through The Years” and how they’ve been through everything there is. Then the singer proclaimed to his loved one: 

“Through the years, you’ve never let me down. You’ve turned my life around. The sweetest days I’ve found, I’ve found with you. Through the years, I’ve never been afraid. I’ve loved the life we’ve made. And I’m so glad I stayed, right here with you – through the years.”

Early this year, Steve Dorff shared the story behind the song, nearly two decades later.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. Because all these songs have great stories, and the fine line between incredible success and dismal failure, which I’ve experienced a lot of,” Dorff said. “But (with) “Through the Years” — true story — Marty and I had just met, and we had written maybe two songs together. We invited him over for dinner one night. He came over and had a little brown envelope. I said, ‘What’s in the envelope?’ He says, ‘A new lyric I wanted to show you.'”

“As Marty always does, he reads me the lyric before he gives it to me,” Dorff continued. “He’s like acting it out like a Shakespearean actor. As he’s reading me the chorus, I’m hearing the tune. So I ripped it out of his hands, I said, ‘Great.'” 

The two rushed over to the piano, finished the song in fifteen minutes, and the rest is history. 

Kenny Rogers Almost Did Not Cut “Through The Years”

But Steve Dorff revealed that “we had a couple of big artists pass on it before Kenny got ahold of it.” In fact, Rogers was “the third or fourth person that was approached with that song.” Mac Davis and Barry Manilow passed on it. Glen Campbell passed on it.

Until Lionel Richie heard the song! Richie loved the song and even wanted to cut it but decided that “Through The Years” was a good fit for Rogers. “He was also producing Kenny Rogers,” Dorff said. “They had just come off “Lady,” which was arguably one of the biggest monster hits of that year. Kenny was arguably one of the biggest artists on the planet. … Mazza (president of Liberty Records at that time) tells me that he pitched the song to Kenny.”

When Rogers started playing the demo for “Through the Years,” his wife at the time came through the room at Rogers’ house. She heard the chorus and walked over to Rogers and said, “You’re recording that one.” And we are glad he did.

Though it had relatively little success in North America, Kenny Rogers credited “Through the Years” as one of his career songs. Rogers appeared and performed the song at the Grammy Awards in 1983 as well as at an April 2001 halftime ceremony to honor Charles Barkley at a Philadelphia 76ers game. Kenny Rogers definitely made the song a timeless classic. 

Enjoy his performance of “Through the Years” in the video below.


kenny rogers

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