The late 1970s had a whole range of musical styles to offer and gambling was repeatedly addressed directly or indirectly. From the mid-70s until today, just as many great hits were produced as in the 50 years before.
In 1975, and unusually for the time, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band then fell back into real blues sounds with their nice title Gamblin’ Bar Room Blues. It’s not so much about gambling but the song title and the vocals alone gave enough reasons for a place in our list. Tom T. Hall sang Deal in classic country style that same year, and Chris de Burgh sang Poker with the Devil with his Spanish Train and the unforgettable lyrics: “Joker is the name, poker is the game. We’ll play right here on this bed. And then we’ll bet for the biggest stakes yet. The souls of the dead.” Bob Dylan got more exhilarated with his people rock song Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. “Backstage the girls were playing five-card stud by the stairs. Lily had two queens, she was hopin’ for a third to match her pair” sang Dylan. In 1974 the country icon Dolly Parton Kentucky Gambler wrote and sang a song that Merle Haggard also sang quite well and which was released in 1975. In it he tells for example: “But at gambling, I was lucky, and so I left Kentucky. And left behind my woman and my kids. Into the gay casinos, in Nevada’s town of Reno. This Kentucky Gambler planned to get rich quick” But he ended up back where he started. A real evergreen was the Little River Band with Lonesome Loser. The lonely loser, who is beaten by the Queen of Hearts again and again, goes the rousing refrain.
Wishbone Ash wrote another beautiful song in 1977 – in Diamond Jack they sing: “You have cast you dice, take your chances at they come, one by one.” Then AC/DC rocked the stage with Sin City in 1978 and Bob Seger took it easy in his ballad Still the Same about a successful gambler. Kenny Rogers also gave good advice in the same year with his unmistakable voice when he sang the title song of the movie The Gambler and said: “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run”. Kenny Rogers landed an absolute top hit with it, which is still wonderful to listen to today. The band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, which was exceptionally modern at the time, also produced a song of the same name in their very own singing and electronic music style. “Mama, give me another ace!” and “Oh Lord, have mercy, give what wheel a spin” are just two examples of this great title. It was about a card cheat when the band The Clash sang The Card Cheat the following year: “With a card up his sleeve, what would he achieve?” The dealer smells the roast and the band sings “The gambler is seized and forced to his knees and shot dead.”
1980 then On The Nickel with smoky voice sung by Tom Waits, who sings about “a place where a royal flush can never beat a pair”. Also for the band Motörhead the gambling topic gave reason to write a song. There is the famous speed metal version of the song Ace of Spades and one, maybe even better, in a slow acoustic version. In the same year The Sweet rocked the stage with their Hot Shot Gambler and sang: “I’ve been much too long in this old casino. Run out of money and luck. I gotta find a way to that lucky number. Hey buddy can you give me a bop. A fortune lost when the dice was tosed. Spinning the wheel was my friend. I though I knew when the bridge was crossed.Forget about tomorrow live for today”. And ABBA also sang about winning and losing their unforgettable title The Winner takes it all.
Kim Carnes also had a song about the card game in 1981 with Draw of the Cards in 1980s music style “Red black or white. Watch ’em fall. And it’s all in the draw of the cards”. Then, as already mentioned, Juice Newton climbed the charts worldwide with her country hit Queen of Hearts. In the following years, many artists still dealt with the topic of gambling. Laura Branigan sang Solitaire in 1983 and in 1984 even Die Toten Hosen let the theme flow into her rock song Liebespieler with full booming. In the same year, Bon Jovi finally sang something about the elegant casino game Roulette and the young Madonna also landed a passable chart hit with Gambler and sang “Cause I’m a gambler, I only play the game my way, yeah”. Stacey Q did it for her right away with her title Two of Hearts. Love and the Two of Hearts, that’s all it’s about, but still audible.
Not much new happened on the subject until 1988, only Kenny Rogers with The Gambler was still running everywhere together with all the other catchy tunes. Van Morrison ventured into something completely different in 1988 with his ballad Ragland Road based on a poem from 1949, which was later performed by artists like Sinead O’Connor, Mark Knopfler, Ed Sheeran, Pat Byrne and Billy Bragg. In gambling metaphors, it says: “The Queen of Hearts is still baking cupcakes (and turning women into tramps) and I’m not exaggerating. Oh I have loved too much and so, yes this is how happiness is thrown away”. In 1989 George Strait got back on the ball with Ace in the Hole in country style – advice like “Life is a gamble, you’ve got to learn to play your cards right, if you want to do it right in life”. This was followed by the relatively unknown Ace Frehley’s classic heavy metal piece Five Card Stud, “At the tables you’ll find me. A stack of chips by my side. Poker Gin or 21. A wining hand is my pride”. The title covers everything to do with gambling.
The Cocteau Twins sang about Heaven or Las Vegas in 1990 and old master Bob Dylan took up the theme again in 1991 with Rambling, Gambling Willie. Really funny text: “Come around you rovin’ gamblers and a story I will tell. About the greatest gambler, you all should know him well. His name was Will O’ Conley and he gambled all his life. He had twenty-seven children, yet he never had a wife”. Country legend Garth Brooks landed a big hit with Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House and sings: “Yeah, she’s my lady luck. Hey, I’m her wild card man”. Bruce Springsteen then sang about the dice in Roll of the Dice in 1992 and in 1993 Sting wrote and sang the appealing soundtrack to LEON – Shape of my Heart about a poker player who doesn’t care if he wins or loses. In 1994 there was a great piece of country music by Clint Black for the hugely successful movie Maverick A Good Rund of Bad Luck. The lyrics are about the fast craps game. In 1994, the rock band Aerosmith hid a lot of poker jargon in their rock love song Deuces are Wild.
The singer Suzanne Vega also spiced up her song No Cheap Thrill 1995 with a lot of poker jargon, which starts with “Ante up!” and then goes on to say “It will cost you, cost you, cost you”. In 1997, the band O.A.R. released a fast paced song called That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker, which is purely about a poker game. Also the German punk rockers of the band Die Ärzte blast “Hallo Leute ich bin pleite, ich bin total blank. Alles verspielt, ich hab’ alles verloren” in their 1998 published title Nie wieder Krieg, nie mehr Las Vegas. And in the lyrics of the title released by the metal band Iron Maiden the singer The Angel and the Gambler roared in the same year. “Best make decisions. Before it’s too late. Take all your chances. Take hold of the reins. A roll of the dice. Ahead of the game again.
In 1999 Mike Ness performed his Gamblin’ Man in lively Two-Step Country Rock and sang how he won with “a couple of queens”. Gambler’s Blues, sung by the rock band Golden Earring in 1999, was also about gambling. She sings: “I do what I do, I’m a gamblin’ man, I gamble on life and I gamble on love. Gamble on luck from above, anyway I can. Seven card stud, with a full-house hand. I’m a jackpot maniac. The Whitlams also sing about the game and the gambling addiction in their title Blow up the Pokies in a somewhat quiet but definitely serious tone.
Corb Lund and his honky-tonk band sang in 2005 in fast beat All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards. There’s not much more to say about that – because he’s inundated with offers from everywhere, but he just wants to play cards – no matter what card game and at what price. Soul legend Amy Winehouse probably spoke from personal experience when she sang quietly “Love is a losing Game – You’re a gamblin man.” 2007 featured a hip-hop title that began with a recording of the World Series of Poker TV coverage. Pokerface by Ghostface Killah (ft. Shawn Wigs) covers all aspects of the game of poker. Old master Bob Dylan sang something about poker again in the same year: Huck’s Tune for the movie Lucky You. It’s about all the poker, money and relationship stumbling blocks. And then the famous Lady GaGa 2008 landed her mega-hit Poker Face with her debut album. It’s mostly about love affairs, but she sings “Fold ’em, let ’em, hit me, raise it baby stay with me. Love Game intuition play the cards with spades to start. And after he’s been hooked, I’ll play the one that’s on his heart.
In 2009 there was All in by Phil Bellante and the lyrics describe pretty well how a poker player feels in the game. In her hit Waking Up In Vegas, singer Katy Perry sings about everything that can happen in the gambling city – love, gambling and everything else unimaginable. In the same year, the band’s country song The Devil Makes Three was about Ace’s and two’s. In 2010, the guys from The Overtones released the nice pop song Gambling Man, which has many cross passes to gambling. In 2011 Jonathan Coulton will also sing a simple song called Gamblers Prayer – and asks for higher support for all gamblers … even with unfair means like “smashing my opponent’s face” and “taking money from my friend”.
In 2012 Stefan Raab, who likes to play poker himself, had a nice hit All In (Alles auf Risiko). Darius Rucker then sang about a luckless player returning home in 2013 in his beautiful County song Wagon Wheel. With her unmistakable voice and style, Stevie Nicks could be heard in 2014 singing The Dealer, which was written back in 1979 during her time at Fleetwood Mac. Craig Campbell’s country song Bankroll Buster from 2015 is probably one of the best poker songs ever written. A really good rap song about poker cheating was by Kevin Christoper. The singer was inspired by Kenny Roger’s world-famous song, they say. Kenny’s title inspired the cover versions of many artists, including ReMixes and also the ragae band Busy Signal.
Since the music industry as well as gambling never stands still, we can expect many more beautiful titles around poker and gambling in the future. And whether it will be completely new songs or cover versions of older releases – all of them will surely find their place in music history and the hearts of the listeners.