Flashback: Kenny Rogers Takes 'Ruby' to First Farm Aid - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Kenny Rogers Takes ‘Ruby’ to First Farm Aid

Smooth pop-country singer helps raise awareness for American farmers with song about a war vet and the woman he loves.

In July 1985, while on stage in Philadelphia for Live Aid, the massive global benefit concert for famine relief in Ethiopia, Bob Dylan remarked that family farmers in the U.S. could use some help too. The comment spurred fellow music superstars Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp into action. Two months later, the first Farm Aid concert took place in Champaign, Illinois. The tradition continues and on September 13th, Jack White joins Nelson, Young and many others for Farm Aid 2014, held this time at Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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At the inaugural Farm Aid concert, more than 50 artists took the stage, including Johnny Cash, Alabama, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Kenny Rogers. Earlier in the year, Rogers was among the acts who gathered to record “We Are the World,” the charity single penned by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie for USA for Africa’s famine-relief efforts.

Among the songs on Rogers’ Farm Aid 1985 set list were his recent hit, “Morning Desire” a solo version of the pop-country smash “Islands in the Stream” and a couple of classics from his days as front man for the First Edition: “Reuben James” and the Mel Tillis-penned “Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love to Town).” The latter was a Top 10 pop hit in 1969 and an even bigger hit in the U.K., where it sold over one million copies. Not bad for a fairly disturbing tune about a paralyzed war veteran and the “painted-up” woman who leaves him behind at home to look for love elsewhere. 

In This Article: Kenny Rogers


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