Country legend Kenny Rogers has died, aged 81.
The singer, who enjoyed hits with songs like Coward of the County, Lucille, and Lady, and The Gambler, passed away “peacefully” at his home in Georgia on Friday night (March 20, 2020), “surrounded by members of his family”, according to a statement posted on Twitter.
A three-time Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, Rogers scored a string of country music number ones in the late 1970s and 1980s, and landed a huge hit in 1983 when he teamed up with Dolly Parton for Islands in the Stream.
Kenny announced he would retire in 2015, after one farewell trek, which he had to cut short in 2018, due to poor health.
“I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” he said at the time. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years… 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.”
He was honored by his peers, friends, and a host of young stars at the All in for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration tribute in Nashville, Tennessee in October (2017), when performers included Lionel Richie, Don Henley, Reba McEntire, Chris Stapleton, and Parton.
Last year (2019), Kenny was hospitalized in Georgia for dehydration.
As well as becoming one of the most beloved country artists, Rogers also enjoyed acting success, starring in a number of films inspired by his hit The Gambler – as Brady Hawkes.
Born in Houston, Texas, Rogers became a member of a popular rockabilly band in high school, called The Scholars, and after leaving the University of Houston, he turned to jazz and became a bassist.
Music took him to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, when he first joined folk group the New Christy Minstrels and then formed First Edition with bandmates Mike Settle, Terry Williams, and Thelma Camacho.
The band enjoyed success with two big pop hits – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) and Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.
Rogers went solo in the mid-1970s and scored an instant hit with Lucille, which topped the country charts and landed Kenny his first Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
He went on to have three number ones with country veteran Dottie West before enjoying superstar success with monster hits The Gambler and Coward of the County in 1978 and 1979.
Rogers landed another huge hit in 1980, when he recorded his version of Lionel Richie’s ballad Lady.
His last number one came in 1999, with Buy Me a Rose, a collaboration with Billy Dean and Alison Krauss.
Kenny turned his attention to touring and entrepreneurial enterprises as the new century began, launching a chain of fast-food restaurants, called Kenny Rogers Roasters, and a car manufacturing firm.
His memoir, Luck or Something Like It, was published in 2012, a year before the singer became a novelist with the book What Are the Chances.
In 2013, he was also awarded the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, and he picked up CMT’s Artist of a Lifetime Award in 2015.
Married five times, Rogers is survived by his widow Wanda and five children.