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Kenny Rogers, Bobby Bare, and the late “Cowboy” Jack Clement — three men whose influence still ripples across the surface of modern music — are now members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The three were saluted by stars Garth Brooks, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Barry Gibb, and others during a ceremony Sunday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Rogers helped push country music farther into pop music territory than it had ever been. He could go deep country with songs like “The Gambler,” ‘’Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” and “Lucille,” but he also had crossover pop hits like “Islands in the Stream” and “Lady,” foreshadowing today’s more pop-friendly country sounds.
Bare scored dozens of hits such as “Dee-troit City” and “How I Got to Memphis,” mining the work of left-of-center Nashville songwriters like Tom T. Hall, Kristofferson, and Shel Silverstein. Though he was never really part of the so-called outlaw movement in country music, he was close friends with many artists who were and his insistence on controlling his own musical choices was an inspiration for others like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Clement, a producer, songwriter, and performer, veered all across popular music over the last half century. He wrote some of Johnny Cash’s early hits, putting those unforgettable mariachi horns on “Ring of Fire,” and was a repeated touchstone for the Man in Black. Among his career highlights was the discovery of Charley Pride and their 13-album association. Clement died in August from cancer at 82.