Reba McEntire Always Regretted Never Telling Kenny Rogers That Vince Gill Was Chosen Over Him For Her 1993 Duet “The Heart Won’t Lie”

When Kenny Rogers asked Kim Carnes to write him a duet he could sing with another female artist, she teamed up with Donna Terry Weiss—who co-wrote the Jackie DeShannon song “Bette Davis Eyes,” which Carnes took to No. 1 in 1981—and wrote “The Heart Won’t Lie.” At first, Rogers was set to sing the duet with Reba McEntire, before her partner was switched during early production.

At the time Rogers had recently featured a duet with Gladys Knight, “If I Knew Then What I Know Now,” on his 1989 album Something Inside So Strong and had a preliminary recording for the duet with McEntire, which ultimately fell flat.

“‘Heart Won’t Lie’ was a song we were trying to get a duet on with Kenny Rogers, and the keys just would not work,” revealed McEntire in 2021 on I Miss … ’90s on Apple. “Then I took the song, and did the duet with Vince [Gill].”

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McEntire and Rogers first became friends when he asked her to appear in his 1991 TV movie The Gambler Returns, The Luck of the Draw. McEntire credited Rogers with saving her “sanity” by asking her to do the movie, months after she lost seven members of her band and her tour manager in a plane crash in in 1991.

“I was still in a state of disbelief and not knowing what I’m gonna do moving forward after the plane crash,” said McEntire reflecting on the time, shortly after Rogers’ death in 2020 at age 81.

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A Moment of Regret with Rogers

Shortly after the release of her duet, Rogers approached McEntire about recording the song with Gill and not him. “I didn’t tell Kenny, which was my mistake, totally,” said McEntire. “Kenny approached me at the CMA Awards. He said, ‘Why did you do that?’ I said, ‘Kenny, I am so sorry. We were just going so fast. It’s a great, wonderful song. I never even considered coming back and talking to you about that, and that’s one of the things I totally regret.'”

McEntire continued, “I hugged his neck, and I told him I was terribly sorry. But I did not do that maliciously.”

Released as the fourth single from McEntire’s 18th album It’s Your Call in 1992, “The Heart Won’t Lie” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1993. The song also marked the first duet by a country duo—who weren’t Brooks & Dunn—to top the charts since Dolly Parton and Ricky Van Shelton’s 1991 hit “Rockin’ Years.” The song also picked up a CMA nomination for Vocal Event of the Year in 1993.

Gill and McEntire, who previously duetted on Gill’s 1990 hit “Oklahoma Swing,” performed “The Heart Won’t Lie” at the 1992 Academy of Country Music Awards. They reappeared and performed the song together on the TV sitcom Evening Shade, starring Burt Reynolds and Marilu Henner, on the episode “Ava Takes A Shower.”

‘Sometimes Life Gets in the Way’

In the ballad, Gill and McEntire trade off lyrics singing as old lovers who are denying that they still have feelings for one another.

Looking back over the years
Of all the things I’ve always meant to say
But the words didn’t come easily
So many times through empty fears
Of all the nights I tried to pick up the phone
So scared of who might be answering

You try to live your life from day to day
But seeing you across the room tonight
Just gives me away

[RELATED: Remember When: Reba McEntire Lost 7 Members of Her Band and Her Tour Manager in a Plane Crash]

‘Cause the heart won’t lie
Sometimes life gets in the way
But there’s one thing that won’t change
I know I’ve tried
The heart won’t lie
You can live your alibi
Who can see you’re lost inside a foolish disguise
The heart won’t lie

Long after tonight
Will you still hear my voice through the radio?
Old desires make us act carelessly
Long after tonight, after the fire
After the scattered ashes fly
Through the four winds blown and gone
Will you come back to me?

PHOENIX, AZ – APRIL 12: Singers Reba McEntire (L) and Kenny Rogers perform onstage during Muhammad Ali’s Celebrity Fight Night XX held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa on April 12, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night)

The Video

For “The Heart Won’t Lie,” director Jon Small loosely based the video “mini-movie” on the 1982 drama An Officer And A Gentleman, featuring McEntire as a U.S. Navy officer, who falls for her sergeant.

McEntire first caught the acting bug when she filmed the music video for her 1986 song “Whoever’s in New England,” the title track of her tenth album. From that point on, her music videos became more cinematic with deeper storylines, including her portrayal of a waitress and mother who goes back to school in the 1992 video for “Is There Life Out There,” which was the premise for the TV movie, starring McEntire as Lily Marshall, in 1994.

After making her film debut in Tremors in 1990, starring alongside Kevin Bacon, McEntire later starred with Rogers in The Gambler Returns, along with The Man from Left Field (1993), North (1994), The Little Rascals (1994), Buffalo Girls (1995), Forever Love (1998), Secret of Giving (2001), and One Night at McCool’s (2001), and more throughout her career.

In 2001, she also made her Broadway debut as Annie Oakley in the musical Annie Get Your Gun and also took on her namesake show, Reba, which aired for six seasons through 2007, and more television and film roles through the 2020s.

[RELATED: 4 Songs You Didn’t Know Reba McEntire Wrote Solo]

Always Friends

Despite the hiccup over “The Heart Won’t Lie,” McEntire and Rogers remained friends throughout his life. Both co-headlined a tour in Australia in 1998 and continued to perform together throughout the years, including a duet of his 1980 song—which Rogers originally sang with Carnes—”Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer.”

McEntire also released her cover of Rogers’ 1977 song “Sweet Music Man” on her 2001 compilation Greatest Hits Volume III: I’m a Survivor.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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