Kenny Rogers, crossover country star, dies at 81
Country music legend Kenny Rogers, who helped bring the genre into the mainstream during a career spanning six decades, has died at the age of 81, his family announced.
With hits like “The Gambler,” “Lucille” and the duet “Islands in the
Stream” with Dolly Parton, the three-time Grammy winner left an indelible mark on American music.
“Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” the family said in a statement late Friday.
The family was planning a small private service “out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency.” Tributes poured in from across the world of showbiz.
Rogers, who sold tens of millions of records worldwide, had 20 albums go platinum, according to his website.
“I’ve never considered myself a great singer, but I do have a certain way as a storyteller,” he told the Irish Examiner in 2013.
“I’ve been very lucky in finding many great songs that have had a staying power, and have lingered longer in the heart.”
Released in 1978, his album “The Gambler” was a huge international hit, going multi-platinum. The title track became his signature song.
One of those emotional ballads was “Lady,” written by Lionel Richie and released in 1980. It was an instant crossover hit.
In 1985, he sang a solo on “We Are The World,” the Grammy-winning star-studded charity single to raise money to help alleviate famine in Africa.
Rogers starred in a series of made-for-television movies based on “The Gambler” through the 1980s and 1990s, but he liked to joke that he wasn’t much of a gambler himself.
“I learned a long time ago, I can’t win enough money to excite me, but I can lose enough to depress me,” he told NPR. “So I don’t gamble.”
He played his final concert in Nashville in October 2017, where he was joined by Parton and Richie.
In April 2018, Rogers scrapped the final dates of his farewell tour due to health concerns.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to fans over the course of the past two years,” he said, adding that he could “never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career.”
Born in a housing project in Houston, Texas, Rogers started his career in the late 1950s and quickly became active in rockabilly, jazz and other genres.
He went on to have 24 number one hits and was a six-time Country Music Association award winner.
In 2013, Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which said he had “parlayed a distinctive, husky voice and laid-back sex appeal into durable superstardom.”