Country music icon Kenny Rogers has died aged 81. He “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” said the statement by a representative of the singer.
Vocalist Kenny Rogers who dominated both the pop and country charts in the 1970s and 1980s has died.
In 2015, the three-time Grammy winner announced he would be doing a farewell tour and managed to keep it going until December 2017.
In April 2018, he announced that he would be calling off any remaining dates as he had unspecified “health challenges”. He had been expected to perform at the Stagecoach Festival in California among others.
In his statement at the time, he said: “I didn’t want to take forever to retire.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years on ‘The Gambler’s Last Deal’ tour. I could never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career and the happiness I’ve experienced as a result of that.”
Earlier this month, A&E announced that they would be doing a special Biography: Kenny Rogers, which was set to air on April 13. The special was set to be centred around footage from the all-star salute Rogers received in Nashville on October 25, 2017.
His signature song ‘The Gambler’ was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2018. This was one of most recent of honours bestowed upon on him throughout his life, which also included an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, three Grammys and six CMA Awards.
In the country-pop crossover, Rogers was considered one of the progenitors at a superstar level.
In a 2016 interview with CMT.com, he said: “I came into country music not trying to change country music but trying to survive.
“And so I did songs that were not country but were more pop. Nowadays they’re not doing country songs at all. What they’re doing is creating their own genre of country music. But I told somebody the other day, country music is what country people will buy. If the country audience doesn’t buy it, they’ll kick it out. And if they do, then it becomes country music. It’s just an era of country music we’re in.”
As he established himself commercially through rock and pop-orientated singles with his group the First Edition, Rogers was then launched into the top rankings of crossover country artists with a string of singles released by United Artists Records.
Throughout his career, he collaborated with many singers including Dolly Parton on ‘Islands in the Stream’ (penned by the Bee Gees) and Lionel Richie with ‘Lady’.
As well as having a successful music career, Rogers managed to have some success into the acting industry too. His 1978 country chart-topper ‘The Gambler’ garnered five popular TV movies, whilst other of hits had inspired small-screen features.
The singer was born and raised in Houston and was fourth of eight children in a rather poor family. As an adolescent, he took on the guitar and would often perform with another inspiring local musician and one-day success, Mickey Gilley.
In his early professional career, he was described as ‘eclectic’ and whilst in high school form a rockabilly group by the name of The Scholars, who recorded for Carlton Records, which was a local label. He had a brief stint at the University of Houston but then played the bass with the jazz groups of Bobby Doyle and Kirby Stone.
In 1967, Rogers founded the rock-inspired group the First Edition. It was fronted by Rogers and the group managed to get two top ten pop hits with ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)’ and ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town’.
However, in the early 70s, the group’s fortune began to fade and Rogers decided to sign a solo deal with UA in 1976. Immediately, he hit luck with his single ‘Lucille’, it became his first number one country hit and reached number in the national pop charts. The hit also scored him his first Grammy, for best male country vocal performance.
Like many stars of his era, Rogers began to fall out of fashion in the 90s as a younger generation of country musicians took over. From this point onwards, he decided to maintain a busy touring schedule and even opened a chain of fast-food branches called Kenny Rogers Roasters and a Sprint car manufacturing firm.
In 2012, he issued a memoir called ‘Luck or Something Like It’ and a novel, ‘What Are The Chances’ in 2013. That very same year, he was awarded the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rogers married five times and his survived by his last wife, Wanda, and five children.
Due to the global COVID-19 emergency, Rogers family is planning a small, private service at this time with a public memorial being planned for a later date.