American Actor-singer Kenny Rogers, the smooth, Grammy-winning balladeer who spread over jazz, folk, nation and pop with so many hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and held onto his persona as “The Gambler” on record and TV died at home in Georgia on Friday night. He was 81.
Kenny Rogers passed on at home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, agent Keith Hagan told The Associated Press. He was under hospice care and died of natural causes, Hagan said.
The Houston-born entertainer with the husky voice and silver beard sold a huge number of records, won three Grammys and was the star of TV films dependent on “The Gambler” and different songs, making him a superstar during the ’70s and ’80s. Kenny Rogers flourished for around 60 years before retired from touring in 2017 at age 79. Regardless of his crossover achievement, he constantly wanted to be thought of as a nation singer.
A genuine rags-to-riches story, Kenny Rogers was brought up public housing in Houston Heights with seven siblings. As a 20-year-old, he had a gold single called “That Crazy Feeling,” under the name Kenneth Rogers, yet when that early achievement slowed down, he joined a jazz group, the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a standup bass player.
In any case, Kenny Rogers’ breakthrough came when he was approached to join the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group, in 1966. The band changed as First Edition and scored a pop hit with the psychedelic song, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Kenny Rogers and First Edition mixed nation rock and folk on songs like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” a story of a Vietnam veteran asking his girlfriend to remain.
After the group separated in 1974, Kenny Rogers began his solo career and found a big hit with the sad country ballad “Lucille,” in 1977, which traversed to the pop charts and earned Rogers his first Grammy. Abruptly the star, Kenny Rogers included hit after hit for over 10 years.
“The Gambler,” the Grammy-winning story song wrote by Don Schlitz, came out in 1978 and became his signature song with a signature abstain: “You gotta know when to hold `em, know when to fold ’em.” The song brought forth a hit TV film of a similar name and a few additional sequels including Kenny Rogers as professional gambler Brady Hawkes and prompted an extensive side career for Rogers as a TV actor and host of a few TV specials.
Different hits included “You Decorated My Life,” “Every Time Two Fools Collide” with Dottie West, “Don’t Fall In Love with a Dreamer” with Kim Carnes, and “Coward of the County.” One of his greatest triumphs was “Lady,” composed by Lionel Richie, a chart-topper for six weeks straight in 1980. Richie said in a 2017 interview with the AP that he frequently didn’t complete songs until he had just pitched them, which was the situation for “Lady.”
“In the beginning, the song was called, Baby,”′ Richie said. “And because when I first sat with him, for the first 30 minutes, all he talked about was he just got married to a real lady. A country guy like him is married to a lady. So, he said, By the way, what’s the name of the song?”′ Richie replies: “Lady.”
In 1985, Kenny Rogers took an interest in the original recording of “We Are the World” alongside over three dozen artists. After a year, as per his website, he co-chaired “Hands Across America,” a campaign that looked to bring issues to light about the homeless and hungry in the US.
Throughout the years, Rogers worked frequently with female duet partners, most significantly, Dolly Parton. The two were combined at the proposal of the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, who wrote “Islands in the Stream.”
Rogers was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, for what association authorities called a “distinctive, husky voice.”
Kenny Rogers had 24 No. 1 hits and through his career over 50 million collections sold in the only us.
Kenny Rogers was a six-time Country Music Awards victor and three-time Grammy Award winner, Hagan said.
“Country Music has lost the great Kenny Rogers, who has forever left a mark on Country Music’s history,” the Country Music Association said in a statement. “His family and friends are in our thoughts during this difficult time.”
In 2015, Kenny Rogers declared his retirement.
Kenny Rogers’ family plans a small, private service out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic, “but look forward to celebrating the life of Kenny Rogers publicly with his friends and fans at a later date,” his publicist’s announcement said.
Tributes to the nation singer Kenny Rogers poured in from fans via social media.
Chuck Woolery, the American game show host, paid tribute Saturday on Twitter, composing:
“Kenny Rogers and I have known each other and have been friends since the 60’s. We will all miss that great voice.”
Comedian Patton Oswalt – who featured with Rogers in an episode of the TV show “Reno 911!” – applauded him and his music.
Oswalt tweeted: “The cast loved him, he told great stories, and was a joy to be around. And ‘The Gambler’ is a truly great song.”
The Grammys official Twitter led the tributes, saying they are “forever grateful” to Rogers:
“#KennyRogers was a Country Music Legend who inspired so many through his work. We are forever grateful to the three-time GRAMMY Award winner for everything he gave music
“Thank you Kenny #RIP”
Boy George thanked Rogers in his tribute, recognizing a time when he played Islands In The Stream for the late George Michael:
“Thanks Kenny Rogers. R.I.P. I played this 45 in the chill out room at a rave called Pushca and George Michael was swinging to it. Fond memories!”
George Takei said his “voice will be missed”:
“Thank you for the tunes, Kenny Rogers. Your voice will be missed by those of us still here at the table. “
Matt Lucas sent a simple tweet of thanks for Rogers “beautiful music”.
Jordan Daley tweeted: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em – Kenny Rogers#RIPKenny”