Sign up for newsletter
 

Kenny Rogers dies at 81

Saturday, March 21, 2020 – Country music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers, who had 21 number 1 country hits, died on Friday at his home in Sandy Springs, Ga. at 81.

No cause of death was specified, but Rogers had been in hospice care. He retired from performing for health reasons in 2018.

Rogers, who sold more than 100 million albums, had hits including "Lady" and "Islands in the Stream" with Dolly Parton. Many of his hits were oin the pop charts as well.

Rogers entered country music with a broad musical background. Growing up in public housing in Houston, he was exposed to R&B, pop, and jazz as well as country. His first professional group was a late-1950s vocal act called the Scholars, which had local hits in Houston. "That Crazy Feeling," a 1958 solo hit on Carlton Records, earned him an appearance on "American Bandstand."

During the early 1960s, Rogers played bass, and occasionally sang, in a Houston jazz trio. Membership in the New Christy Minstrels folk group spurred the founding of the First Edition, in which Rogers and other former Minstrels mixed folk, rock and country sounds. The new group went to number 5 on the pop chart in 1967 with Mickey Newbury's psychedelic "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" and gained several additional pop hits on Reprise Records.

After the group's breakup in 1974, producer/executive Larry Butler signed Rogers to United Artists Records, on which he had modest hits until the success of the mournfully catchy, Grammy-winning "Lucille" in 1977, which reached the top of the country chart and number five on the pop chart.

For the next dozen years, Rogers logged hit after hit, including "The Gambler" (1978-79), penned by Don Schlitz, "She Believes in Me" (1979) and "Coward of the County" (1979-80). In 1980, on Liberty Records, "Lady," a romantic ballad written by pop star Lionel Richie, ruled the pop charts for six weeks. Successful duets included "Every Time Two Fools Collide" with Dottie West (1978) and the crossover smash "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" with Kim Carnes (1980). In addition to five CMA Awards wins, Rogers piled up three Grammys as the country-pop era reached a peak. Rogers was touring arenas.

Already a veteran TV performer, Rogers gained further exposure through acting in made-for-television movies, including a series of five treatments of "The Gambler." His hit "Love the World Away" was a theme song in the era-defining 1980 film "Urban Cowboy."

The 1980s also saw hits on Liberty and RCA, including "Love Will Turn You Around" (1982), the Sheena Easton duet "We've Got Tonight" (1983), and "Islands in the Stream" (1983), all country numbers ones that made the pop charts.

Rogers appeared front and center in the megastar collaboration "We Are the World" (1985), scoring additional chart-toppers such as "Crazy," "Real Love" and the sensual George Martin-produced "Morning Desire." The solo hit "Tomb of the Unknown Love" (1986) and the Ronnie Milsap duet "Make No Mistake, She's Mine" (1986) were Rogers's last number one country records until "Buy Me a Rose" (1999-2000), recorded with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean.

Rogers' crossover approach began to work against him as pop took on a harder edge and younger country artists went back to the music's roots.

Rogers invested in Branson, Mo. ventures, published several photography books, authored two children's books, engaged in major philanthropic endeavors and launched a chain of restaurants.

Though his chart success slipped in the late 1980s and 1990s through stints with Giant, Atlantic, Reprise and Magnatone, "Buy Me a Rose" (on Dreamcatcher) gave him a boost at the outset of the 21st century. He continued to tour and released hits collections and albums of new material, the latter including "Water & Bridges" (Capitol Nashville, 2006), which yielded the Top 20 hit "I Can't Unlove You."

Rogers was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. That same year, he released "You Can't Make Old Friends." This album included the title track, a new duet with Parton, which was his first single released in six years.

In 2015, Rogers announced his farewell tour, The Gambler's Last Deal. Concert dates were scheduled through 2018 and included shows in the U.S., Australia, Scotland, Ireland, England, The Netherlands and Switzerland. However, on April 5, 2018, Rogers canceled his remaining tour as advised by doctors due to health issues.

Rogers' final concert in Nashville took place on Oct. 25, 2017, at the Bridgestone Arena where he was joined by Linda Davis, Elle King, Little Big Town, Billy Currington, Lee Greenwood, the Flaming Lips, the Oak Ridge Boys, Justin Moore, Travis Tritt, the Judds, Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, Chris Stapleton, Lady Antebellum, Idina Menzel, Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire, Jamey Johnson. and Richie. The concert also included a special appearance by Parton, who performed "You Can't Make Old Friends" and "Islands in the Stream" with Rogers for the final time.

Rogers was married five times and leaves five children along with his widow, Wanda, who he was married to for 22 years.

More news for Kenny Rogers

CD reviews for Kenny Rogers

You Can't Make Old Friends CD review - You Can't Make Old Friends
Kenny Rogers has aged well, perhaps because he was already prematurely grey back when he first entered the country music realm more years ago than he'd probably care to mention. He sings, with the help of old friend Dolly Parton, on this album's title track about how you can't make old friends. And disarmingly honest lines like, "Who's going to tell me the truth?" raise this song above being just another music buddy number. The only trouble with having Parton sing a »»»
The Love of God CD review - The Love of God
There seems to be a theme among country superstars. They work their way onto the scene, burn bright, hopefully keeping the flame alive for some time. Then as their career ebbs and flows and the hits stop coming as steadily as they used to, they find themselves sitting in a studio recording a gospel record. Granted, country and gospel have always been fine bedfellows, but it just seems to be a trend that signifies that one is nearing the end of their career. "The Gambler" himself, Kenny »»»
Water and Bridges CD review - Water and Bridges
Kenny Rogers' first studio album in three years finds his gifts undiminished, with his voice resounding distinctively atop Dann Huff's country-tinged adult contemporary productions. The material sticks to the sort of contemplative mid-tempo numbers on which Rogers excels, and though the opening single (the power ballad "I Can't Unlove You") is lyrically pedestrian, there are songwriting riches to be found throughout. Walt Wilkins and Davis Raines' "Someone Somewhere Tonight" hits a high point »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: The Lil Smokies provide the perfect antidote – On a night when the world to be falling further apart thanks to coronavirus (this would be the night the NBA postponed the season), there stood The Lil Smokies to at least in some small measure save the day. The quintet is part of a generation of musicians with bluegrass as the basis, but not totally the sum of the music either.... »»»
Concert Review: White makes the case for himself, no matter how dark the music – John Paul White opined with a glint in his eyes that his songs were not of the uplifting variety. In fact, they were downright dark. How else to explain "The Long Way" with the line "long way home back to you." Or "James," a song inspired by his grandfather who suffered from dementia. But lest you think that the Alabama... »»»
Follow Country Standard Time  Subscribe to Country News Digest  Follow Country Standard Time on twitter  Visit Country Standard Time on Facebook 

Elsewhere in the news

Currently at the CST blogs

Lewis (and her daughters) make beautiful music (occasionally) and carry on the legacy Linda Gail Lewis has several interesting bullet points on her lengthy resume. She released her first singles in 1963 at age 16, and her first solo album, "The Two Sides of Linda Gail Lewis," in 1969 when she was just 22; her follow up album wouldn't appear until 1990.... »»»
Hancock shows he's still "Man of the Road" Wayne Hancock exhibits his well-defined self-deprecation while describing the nature of his vinyl/digital only release, "Man of the Road." "Yeah, greatest hits," he says with a raspy chortle, the sound that every smoke-filled, whiskey-soaked roadhouse he's ever loaded into would... »»»
With "Headlights," Della Mae turns it up Ten years on, Della Mae has covered a lot of ground in the world of bluegrass, and the band is meeting the challenges of building a sustaining, long-term career with its latest release "Headlights."... »»»
The Mavericks "Play the Hits" When recording its album "Play the Hits," The Mavericks approached this covers album in much the same way the band creates any of its other studio albums. "Above all, we're always trying to reach a certain musical... »»»
Larue moves "Onward" The release of "Onward," his eighth studio album, finds veteran Texas Music/Red Dirt artist Stoney Larue at a crossroads. After almost two decades on the road, playing 200 shows a year across America... »»»
Willis, Robison spin "Beautiful Lie" Eleven years ago, Kelly stepped away from music. She had just finished touring on 2007's exquisite "Translated From Love" and felt the angst of being a travelling musician with family at home. At that point, Willis and her husband, musician/producer Bruce Robison,... »»»
Chip Kinman celebrates brother, career on "Sounds Like Music" For a brief moment last summer, the news of Tony Kinman's death was, if not greatly exaggerated, then at least fortuitously premature. The roots rock icon, known for his work in The Dils, Rank and File, Blackbird and Cowboy Nation with his younger brother Chip, had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2018,... »»»
Never Will CD review - Never Will
One of Ashley McBryde's breakthrough hits was the autobiographical "Girl Goin' Nowhere," about people who had cruelly cast doubts upon her music career aspirations. Now, in an act akin to paying it forward, McBryde opens »»»
2020 CD review - 2020
Eliza Gilkyson hasn't ascended to the upper ranks of todays's foremost singer/songwriters purely on happenstance alone. Her albums affirm a belief in music as an essential salve, especially in times of dire distress and turmoil.  »»»
A Long Way Back: The Songs of Glimmer CD review - A Long Way Back: The Songs of Glimmer
It's not uncommon for artists to tour and play complete records during album anniversary years, but Kim Richey has taken the extra (and much appreciated) step of rerecording "Glimmer," and giving it the title,  »»»
Lady Like CD review - Lady Like
When it comes to the love department, life seemingly has not very kind at all to Ingrid Andress. That's more than apparent for Andress on her eight-song EP debut. She sure thinks a lot about love and its associated problems, »»»
To Live In Two Worlds Volume 1 CD review - To Live In Two Worlds Volume 1
Fans of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper are certainly familiar with the guitarist and singer-songwriter, Thomm Jutz, who has become the third member of that trio over the past few recordings. Jutz is increasingly »»»
Blindsided CD review - Blindsided
It's appropriate that singer/songwriter Mark Erelli takes a different tack with the aptly named "Blindsided," an album exploreing the inner sanctums of the soul and the conflicts that inevitably shake one's perceptions »»»