Saturday, December 16, 1978

Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” topped the country charts

The Gambler

Kenny Rogers

Writer(s): Don Schlitz (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 28, 1978

Peak: 16 US, 13 CB, 14 GR, 18 HR, 21 RR, 3, 13 CW, 22 UK, 8 CN, 25 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 225.13 video, 198.71 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In 1976, Don Schlitz was in his early 20s and working as a computer operator while trying his hand at songwriting. TR In August 1976, he wrote “The Gambler,” a song about in which the narrator is on a train with a gambler who offers advice such as “the secret to survivin’ is knowing what to throw away, and knowing what to keep.” WK

Schlitz, who wasn’t a poker player, said the song isn’t really about cards, but “handling what life gives you, what some would call ‘playing the hand you’re dealt.” SF He wrote the song in honor of his late father, saying he was “the best man I ever knew. He wasn’t a gambler, but the song was my way of dealing with the relationship that I had with him.” SF

Schlitz shopped it for two years before Bobby Bare recorded it on his album, Bare. It wasn’t released as a single, so Schlitz released a version, WK which hit #65 on the country charts in 1978. Hugh Moffatt reached #95 with the song that same year and it was also recorded by Conway Twitty’s son Charlie Tango TR and Johnny Cash.

Producer Larry Butler brought the song to Kenny Rogers, who’d heard Schlitz’s version. TR It gave Rogers his fifth #1 country song and was a top-20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The spong spawned a 1980 TV movie Kenny Rogers as The Gambler. He reprised the role in four more made-for-TV movies. SF


  • TR Tom Roland (1991). The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Pages 224-5.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 11/2/2021; last updated 12/262022.

Saturday, December 9, 1978

Chic’s “Le Freak” hit #1

Le Freak


Writer(s): Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards (see lyrics here)

Released: September 21, 1978

First Charted: October 21, 1978

Peak: 16 US, 17 CB, 12 GR, 17 HR, 12 RR, 48 AC, 15 RB, 7 UK, 12 CN, 15 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.5 UK, 13.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1.15 video, 120.44 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards formed Chic in 1976 after meeting six years earlier as session musicians in New York City. They brought in drummer Tony Thompson and singer Norma Jean Wright and in 1977 released their debut album, Chic, which was fueled by the top 10 hit “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah).” Wright left the group and was replaced by Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin. The change didn’t hurt as Chic did even better the next time out with “Le Freak,” the first single from sophomore album C’est Chic.

The song came about from an incident at New York City’s famed disco club Studio 54. Rodgers and Edwards were invited to the club by Grace Jones on New Year’s Eve in 1977. However, she forgot to notify the nightclub staff and the pair were refused entry WK despite the fact that their music was often played in the club. SF The doorman told them to “fuck off” as he slammed the door on them. They used it in a song, eventually changing it to “freak out” after realizing radio would never play it otherwise. WK

“Le Freak” had an unusual chart run. It moved to #1 in just its seventh week on the chart, but then was replaced by Barbra Steisand and Neil Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” the song it had knocked from the top. However, “Le Freak” was back the next week – only to be knocked out again by the Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven.” However, after two weeks, “Le Freak” was back again for another three weeks. There’s was the first song in Billboard history to hit #1 three times. WK It went on to become the best-selling single in the history of Atlantic Records. FB

The record company was not sold on the song when they first heard it. Rodgers said he and Edwards sat with their lawyer in a conference room after playing a seven-and-a-half minute version of the song. The executives had cleared out of the room and were, as Rodgers said, “trying to figure out how to tell us how much the song sucked.” SF


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Chic
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 495.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 10/31/2019; last updated 12/28/2022.

Thursday, November 30, 1978

Elvis Costello “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding” released

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding

Elvis Costello & the Attractions

Writer(s): Nick Lowe (see lyrics here)

Released: November 1978

First Charted: --

Peak: 5 CL, 1 CO, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.3 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Singer/songwriter, musician, and producer Nick Lowe was born in 1949 in England. He started his career in 1967 with the band Kippington Lodge, which later became the pub-rock group Brinsley Schwarz. He wrote the song “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding” in 1974 for the group. “Like all pub-rockers, Brinsley Schwarz were lapsed hippies, playing folky-funky in flannel shirts and jeans. Unlike most, Nick Lowe combined his hippie roots with an absolute faith in the corruptibility of mankind.” DM

Lowe left in 1975 to form Rockpile with Dave Edmunds before launching a solo career. He also wore the producer’s hat for Elvis Costello, helping him launch his career with his first solo album, 1977’s My Aim Is True. Lowe was back for the 1978 This Year’s Model release and 1979’s Armed Forces. The latter album included Elvis Costello’s cover of “Understanding” on the American release. Costello originally recorded it as the B-side for Lowe’s 1978 single “American Squirm.” WK

It was Costello’s idea to record the song. He’d been a fan of Brinsley Schwarz, going to see them play. WK Costello said the original “seemed almost tongue-in-cheek, a take on that brief period after flower power when Tin Pan Alley staff songwriters seemed to say, ‘Hey, let’s get in on some of this crazy peace and love stuff that the kids are digging today.’” WK Critic Dave Marsh said “Costello eradicated Lowe’s cynicism and replaced it with joyous acceptance and thinly veiled remorse.” MA

Lowe said, “it was he who really popularized that song. It’s been covered by loads of people, and it would’ve disappeared if it wasn’t for him.” WK Marsh called it “the hottest rock and roll [Costello’s] band, the Attractions, ever made.” DM Music historian Steve Sullivan says the song “became the most unforgettable of Costello’s early recordings which established him at the vanguard of British rock’s new wave.” SS


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First posted 3/9/2023.