Nightline Playlist: Kid Rock

Robert Ritchie loved music long before he became "Kid Rock."

"My parents weren't really musically inclined," he explained, "but they did love all different types of music. So there were always records to sift through."

Much like the music Kid Rock plays today, which defies one specific genre, his parents exposed him to everything from the early rock and roll of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry to the country tunes of Waylon Jennings.

"I just really loved music," he recalled, "and I really wanted to sit around the stereo -- you know those big old stereos -- and imagine that the band was actually inside the stereo playing the music as tiny figures. From there I started performing."

The rock star was born in Romeo, Mich., a rural town outside Detroit, in 1971. His father, Bill Ritchie, ran a successful car dealership, and his mother, Susan, stayed home to raise Kid and his two siblings. When he was 12, his parents gave him his first set of turntables.

"I really started break dancing before anything else, and from there I would go with a DJ on the weekends," Kid Rock said. "I'd perform like raps for the group to come out and break dance, so that was kind of the early stuff that got me into it."

He signed a deal with Jive Records at age 19. His first album was titled, "Grit Sandwiches for Breakfast," and he soon found himself opening for Ice Cube at huge venues across the country. Despite the early brush with fame, the record failed to sell and Rock was dropped by the label.

After years of putting out his own records, success finally came in 1998 with the release of his album, "Devil without a Cause." In the next few years, Kid Rock released albums that embraced hip-hop, Southern rock, country and just about every other genre. He has sold more than 21 million records.

'Bad, Bad Leroy Brown'

Kid Rock's first memory of a song occurred while he was getting ready for a talent contest in kindergarten.

"I think it was 'Bad Leroy Brown' by Jim Croce," he said. "I just remember knowing it made me feel good when I was a little kid. And now I appreciate it even more growing up."

"Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown" was Jim Croce's biggest hit in his short life. The song hit No. 1 on the charts in 1973.

'It's Like That'

Kid Rock got into hip-hop before he was even a teenager. He considered himself lucky to witness the first wave of rap music.

"I remember a girl in school came to school with a record I think she got from a cousin in Detroit," he said. "I think it might have been 'It's Like That' by Run-DMC, and when I heard that it was just like ... BAM!"

The musician likened the early days of hip-hop to the birth of blues music.

"When hip-hop came along … it now influences every form of music out there, so it really is the blues music of my day and age," he said.

Even as Kid Rock music moves more toward a country sound, the form clearly still influences each of his albums.

'Crazy Bitch'

Kid Rock said there haven't been that many songs that have moved him in the last couple of years. One exception is the song "Crazy Bitch" by the band Buckcherry.

"I thought that was a great rock song of the last so many years," he said. "Nobody's just captured that essence and attitude and once again, you know, it had some soul and some funk to it but it was still heavy and hard. I don't know, it's just a fun song. It made me feel. That was the bottom line."

'Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Back in Black'

There are a few songs that have stayed with Rock no matter where he is in his life or his career.

"My go-to records is always 'Sweet Home Alabama' by Lynyrd Skynyrd or 'Back in Black' by AC/DC," he said. "They just never fail. I mean, to me those have to be, like, two of the greatest songs ever written."

'Wrapped Up and Tangled Up in Jesus'

The Rev. Charlie Jackson only saw one album released in his lifetime, a collection of 18 songs recorded in the 1970s. The singer and guitar player who was also a pastor gave up blues music early in his career to focus on gospel music. The deeply soulful collection spoke to Kid Rock when he first heard it a few years ago.

"He's kind of like a blues-gospel-kind-of-thing guy. A girl gave me this CD a few years back. It's great," he said. "There's one where he talks about going fishing. You put the hook in the water, and he's talking about how he wished somebody would hook him someday. And then he says … Jesus got a hook in me, and I don't want to get loose. It's great."

Kid Rock is releasing a new album this month titled "Rock and Roll Jesus." This record, like his previous, is hard to define. It embraces many sounds, including even some soul and R&B.

"Well, the new record I have coming out, I've done so many styles of music," he explained, "and none of it has been contrived. It's always what's just musically in my heart. What I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. It's literally a combination, a culinary of all those musical styles that I love.

"I call it rock and roll but there are always traces of hip-hop, of blues, there's a honky-tonk slammer on the end," he added. "There's some really deep soulful stuff. Music changes with your mood, so it depends where you're at. I mean, I've been influenced by everything."

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