Published on 19 March 2017 by Rachel
Music is an intrinsic part of our lives and handles every topic or issue you can imagine, from heartbreak to social responsibility and everything in between. Gambling is the subject of many songs, by musicians in any genre you can think of. Today we’re taking a look at how gambling has influenced and inspired music-makers the world over.
Kenny Rogers – ‘The Gambler’
This 1978 track recounts a late-night meeting on a train between the singer and a stranger, referred to as the gambler. The gambler imparts some important life lessons, and Rogers delivers this song with his trademark style, reaching #1 on the country music charts and even breaking into the pop charts, a feat unheard of at the time. Rogers won a Grammy award for best male country vocal performance for the album the track appeared on, in 1980.
Motorhead – Ace of Spades
With heaps of gambling metaphors and references, this pumping metal track is one of Motorhead’s most well-known songs and still gets plenty of air time today, a long time since its release in 1980. Lead guitarist Lemmy Kilmister told Rolling Stone magazine that although the track is insanely popular, he himself never imagined it would reach such a degree of popularity, calling it ‘just f***ing another song’.
Frank Sinatra – Luck Be A Lady
You really can’t go wrong with Mr Sinatra and this track is no different. Initially written in 1950 and featuring in the musical Guys and Dolls, Sinatra made it famous in 1963 and it went on to become one of his signature songs. The lyrics are from the point of view of gambler Sky Masterson, who hopes he will win a bet and go on to rescue his romantic relationship with the girl of his dreams.
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
An undeniably catchy, totally danceable tune, Lady Gaga’s Poker Face cemented her image as a pop culture queen and a household name in music. While this 2008 track is ostensibly about the gamble of a relationship, its refrain (‘Can’t read my poker face’) will be hard to get out of your head. Not that that’s a bad thing at all.
Clint Black – A Good Run of Bad Luck
Released in 1994, country legend Clint Black sings about the risk and reward of falling in love through gambling metaphors. This track was also on the soundtrack of the 1994 movie Maverick, in which Mel Gibson plays a wisecracking gambler called Bret Maverick, who faces many mishaps on his way to a major poker tournament.
Juice Newton – Queen of Hearts
This catchy country track is about the risk you take when getting involved with the Queen of Hearts, a player who won’t hesitate to take you for everything you’ve got. This song first appeared in an album by a singer called Dave Edmunds in 1979, but it was Juice Newton’s 1981 release of the song that brought it critical acclaim, a #2 spot in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981 and a million record sales.
Elvis Presley – Viva Las Vegas
Nothing says gambling excitement like Vegas, and nobody sings like the King. This 1964 hit is all about the bright lights, high stakes and thrills of Las Vegas and its casinos. Elvis’ inimitable croon just makes this classic track instantly recognizable and a toe-tapping reminder of why we roll the dice and spin the reels.