Casinos have been the sites of many famous films and songs, with the lure and atmosphere of the surroundings providing the perfect situation to create sublime entertainment for our eyes and ears.
Music has been influenced by the nature of gambling so, with this in mind, here are three songs that find lyrical inspiration from the glitz and glamour of the felt tables.
“Poker Face” – Lady Gaga
Poker Face came at the beginning of Lady Gaga’s rise to the summit of the music world. Although a lot of the terminology used in the song are famous gambling terms – it’s not directly what she’s going for with her lyrics. The term poker face originated from the poker tables where players attempt to give their opponents a tell on their hand via their body language.
However, Gaga is not specifically trying to emulate that message in this successful tune, using the term to explain a façade regarding her relationship issues. Though, she’s not done with the gambling references, firing in Texas Hold’Em in the first line of the song before following up with casino, card, and roulette wheel metaphors. It’s quite clear she was influenced by the culture of gambling in her songwriting.
It definitely worked for Gaga, and the song remains perhaps her most notable in her repertoire, becoming the biggest and fastest-selling single of 2009, totaling 14 million worldwide. It was certainly one of the leading factors that launched her career, which now includes 11 Grammys, three Brit Awards, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes and an Academy Award.
“The Gambler” – Kenny Rogers
It says it all in the title of the song. Once again it’s more of a metaphor for life than an actual experience at the tables. His music video looks back to a time where people more commonly gathered around tables for a game of poker or such rather than new experiences of the online world. However, the principles remain the same for any gamble. It’s important for people to know their limits – “you got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em. Know when to walk away, know when to run.” The song is certainly Rogers’ most notorious hit and you don’t have to be a major fan of his work to have come across this particular record. It was released 1978 and was the title track of his album of the same name.
Arguably, the legacy of the casino industry, and the existence of modern-day casino aesthetics and environments – including land-based and online venues, would not be as it is today without music giants such as Rogers. Classic songs like The Gambler have transpired over the years, adding to the classic aesthetic found in both off and online casinos which offer a variety of different slot games, as well as classic table games that Rogers often referred to, such as poker and blackjack.
Rogers won a Grammy for his vocal performance in the song. However, it did not have great commercial success outside of his base audience in the US country music scene at the time. It certainly has enjoyed longevity, though – notably featuring as recently in the mainstream as 2014 in a Geico commercial that included Rogers himself singing the lyrics. The song was also placed in the National Recording Registry in 2018 due to its relevance and importance in US culture, ensuring his legacy in the music business for the distant future. Its success – like most songs – has a relatability to it – we’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve had to make tough decisions. The lucky ones of us will have had time to count our winnings, as Rogers quips at the end of the chorus!
“Luck Be A Lady” – Frank Sinatra
Sinatra was no stranger to a casino or two during his time, having owned The Cal Neva Resort and Casino in Lake Tahoe. At the casino table, no element is more important than luck with the roll of dice deciding the fate of your stake. The song itself was written in 1950 by Frank Loesser and was originally performed by Robert Alda. However, it was worked into the musical Guys and Dolls. Sinatra was cast in the film, only to see the leading role of Sky Masterson taken by Marlon Brando. It was Brando’s character Masterson who sang Luck Be A Lady in the musical, debating on whether his bet will help his relationship problems.
Sinatra took ownership of the song in 1963 and he released it on two albums. Few songs epitomize his style more than the Luck Be A Lady. It has appeared in several notable film and television shows, including The Simpsons, with their own unique twist, and Mrs. Doubtfire. The song is a regular for performers in Las Vegas – the hub of all things gambling in the United States, though no-one has quite captured the tone and manner of the song more than Sinatra. Much like his other songs, including My Way, artists have attempted to launch their own versions of the track. However, both he and the song were truly one of a kind.