By JOHN DALY
Few moments are more electric than winning a hand of poker or hitting the jackpot on a slot machine. The bright lights of Las Vegas and the thrill of gambling has influenced multiple songwriters to pen superb hits about casinos and its games throughout the decades. Check out some of the hit songs inspired by the casino industry:
Viva Las Vegas (1963) by Elvis Presley
Few songs evoke the imagery and atmosphere of Sin City quite like Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas (1963), which served as the soundtrack to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s 14th motion picture of the same name. The music could make you want to rush out to play a game of Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha Hi-Lo easily, as it features lines such as “Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire” and “Oh, there’s blackjack and poker and the roulette wheel, a fortune won and lost on every deal.”
Despite Elvis never singing the song live, it is one of his most recognizable hits to this day easily, with the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) certifying it gold on March 27, 1992, after selling more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. alone.
Elvis Presley – Viva Las Vegas
Luck be a Lady (1965) by Frank Sinatra
Originally written and composed by Frank Loesser and performed by Robert Alda in 1950, Luck be a Lady served as the soundtrack to the movie Guys and Dolls. It has also become one of Frank Sinatra’s biggest hits, with him releasing the song as part of the album Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre, and it later appeared on his LP Sinatra ’65: The Singer Today.
The catchy lyrics tell the story from the point of view of Sky Masterson, who is a gambler hoping to win a bet, and the outcome is the result of whether he can salvage a relationship with his dream girl.
Frank Sinatra – Luck Be A Lady:
Casino Boogie (1972) by The Rolling Stones
Casino Boogie was inspired by The Rolling Stones’ rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, as they recorded the song in 1972 at Keith Richards’ villa in the South of France. At the time, the band was on exile from England to avoid paying taxes. Apparently, they would sleep throughout the day, then visit many casinos in Monte Carlo before working on their album until the morning.
However, the song can be a little hard to understand, as Mick Jagger stated in a 2010 interview with Uncut magazine that the “song was done in cut-ups. It’s in the style of William Burroughs. We just wrote phrases on bits of paper and cut them up.”
The Rolling Stones – Casino Boogie:
The Gambler (1978) by Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers released some of the most popular country songs of all time, such as Islands in the Stream and We’ve Got Tonight. Still, few are more iconic than The Gambler, which tells the tale of him meeting an enigmatic gambler onboard a train who gives him some life lessons. For example, he tells him “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away,” which is good advice for anyone who is terrible at Texas Hold ‘em poker.
The hit song not only hit No. 1 on the Billboard music chart and sold 798,000 digital copies, but the album of the same name was also nominated for Record of the Year at the GRAMMY Awards in 1980.
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler:
The Dealer (2014) by Stevie Knicks
The Dealer by Stevie Knicks might have been released in 2014 on her 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault album, but it was written three and a half decades earlier in 1979. It, therefore, wouldn’t sound out of place on a vintage Fleetwood Mac record.
While the song is a comment on both love and regret, it also references the world of casino, as Stevie Nicks refers to herself as the dealer who “held the cards” and is a “card shark.”
Stevie Nicks – The Dealer
Desperado (1973) by The Eagles
Desperado is full to the brim with poker references, as it features lines such as “Don’t you draw the Queen of Diamonds; boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able, you know the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet.”
It is, of course, telling the story of a desperado who runs from the law and finds himself living a life of solitude inside of a prison, which was due to the luck of the draw. Linda Ronstadt later covered the ballad written by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, which boosted the song’s prominence when the band reunited in the 1990s. It is now regarded as one of the band’s most recognizable songs and consequently ranked No. 494 on Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
The Eagles – Desperado
Huck’s Tune by Bob Dylan
Huck’s Tune proved to music fans across the world that Bob Dylan’s songs were still as strong in the 21st century. Penned for the movie Lucky You, which stars Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana, Dylan sings about the perils of money, relationships and poker, which reflect the hit film. For example, it features lyrics such as “the game’s gotten old, the deck’s gone cold, and I’m gonna have to put you down for a while.”
Huck’s Tune – Bob Dylan
Poker Face (2008) by Lady Gaga
Poker Face (2008) by Lady Gaga
More than a decade ago, Lady Gaga kick-started her career with the hit song Poker Face, which filled with poker-fueled lyrics, sexual innuendo and a catchy melody, having the whole world singing lines such as “I wanna hold ‘em’ like they do in Texas play” and “No he can’t read my poker face.” The song enjoyed global success, topping the charts in multiple countries and selling 9.5 million copies in 2009 alone. As a result, it is one of the best-selling singles of all time after moving more than 14 million copies following its release.
Shape of My Heart (1993) by Sting
Shape of My Heart, written by Sting’s long-serving guitarist Dominic Miller, featured in the end credits of the 1994 movie Leon: The Professional. The song tells the story of a poker player who doesn’t care if he wins or loses, as he isn’t in it for the money. Instead, he plays to boost his knowledge of the game, as it features lyrics such as “he deals the cards to find the answer, the sacred geometry of chance, the hidden law of a probable outcome.” By the end of the song, the poker player has started to make sense of the complex game, as “spades are the swords of a soldier” and “clubs are weapons of war.”
Sting – Shape Of My Heart
So, the next time you are set to visit a casino to play a game of Omaha Hi-Lo or the slots, be sure to crank up one of the above songs.