Remembering Kenny Rogers

The country legend is an award-winning hitmaker with a story that will never be forgotten.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

March 20, 2023

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Kenny Rogers spent six decades establishing his career in country music. He is considered an icon, a mentor for many generations to come and a singer/songwriter who had given so much to the industry. 

He was born in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 21, 1938, as the fourth out of eight children to his mother, Lucille Lois Rogers, and his father, Edward Floyd Rogers. His solo career began to take off in 1957, when he landed his first hit with his song, “That Crazy Feeling.” Not long after, Rogers took a different approach to music when he joined a jazz group billed as the Bobby Doyle Three, which was followed by his position in the country band named, The First Edition, in the 1960s. 

While these opportunities helped him build his music career and gain a broader experience in the industry, Rogers eventually found his way back to a successful solo career. 

Leaving Behind A Legacy

The country star died on March 20, 2020, leaving behind a life-long legacy in the history of American music and fans who fell in love with his signature sound through chart-topping hits like “The Gambler,” “Coward of the Country,” “Through the Years,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream,” to name a few. 

Rogers was 81 years old when he passed away from natural causes. In a statement shared to social media by a representative, the public learned that the legendary musician took his last breath from his Sandy Springs, Georgia home, and was surrounded by love. 

“The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25 p.m. at the age of 81,” the statement read. “Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family.”

Tributes Poured In

After hearing the news, many friends, fans and fellow country stars took the time to share their condolences. Dolly Parton was one of Rogers’ longtime friends whom he spent time with both in the studio and on stage on a number of occasions. Following his passing, the “Jolene” singer took to social media to pen a heartfelt tribute to Rogers. 

“Well, I couldn’t believe it this morning when I got up and turned on the TV checking to see what the coronavirus was doing and they told me that my friend and singing partner Kenny Rogers had passed away,” she began. “I know that we all know that Kenny is in a better place than we are today. But I am pretty sure he’s gonna be talking to God some time today, if he ain’t already, and he’s gonna be asking him to spread some light on a bunch of this darkness going on here.”

As the video continued, Parton held up a framed photo of herself and Rogers, giving her followers a glimpse into their tight-knit friendship.

Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

“I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart is broken. A big ‘ole chunk of it has gone with him today,” she said. “I think that I can speak for all his family, his friends and fans when I say that I will always love you,” she added while holding back her tears. “God bless you, Kenny. Fly high straight to the arms to of God.”

A True Icon

Throughout the span of his impressive career, the “We’ve Got Tonight” singer racked up 24 number-one hits and was named a six-time CMA Awards winner, Country Music Hall of Famer and three-time GRAMMY® Award winner. Additionally, he earned the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 CMA Awards. 

Along with his critically-acclaimed work as an artist, Rogers is also well known for his acting roles in a string of films and TV shows beginning with the “The Gambler” in 1980. This TV-movie series was based on his 1979 GRAMMY-winning hit of the same name. As a result of its popularity, four sequels of “The Gambler” were born – Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (1983), Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (1987), The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) and Gambler V: Playing for Keeps (1994).

Kenny Rogers; Photo by Piper Ferguson
Kenny Rogers; Photo by Piper Ferguson

Being the entrepreneur that he was, Rogers also spent his time co-founding a restaurant chain, Kenny Rogers Roasters, and added author to his resume with the release of his autobiography titled, Luck or Something Like It.

In between these projects, music continued to be a staple in Rogers’ life until he officially stepped away from touring in 2017. This chapter of his career came to a close following a farewell tour.

Remembered By Fellow Artists

Kenny Rogers’ life and career was celebrated at an all-star tribute concert with CMT, which was aired Wednesday, April 8, 2020. CMT GIANTS Kenny Rogers: A Benefit For MusiCares featured virtual performances and interviews from Gavin DeGraw, Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, Jennifer Nettles, Lionel Richie, Michael McDonald, Randy Houser, Rascal Flatts and more. The special also showcased rare photos, interviews and performances, with clips and commentary from Kenny Rogers himself. 

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This show was not only an opportunity to honor his legacy, but it helped raise funds for the thousands of music creators and industry professionals who had the greatest need due to the pandemic. 

Kenny Rogers is proceeded by his loving family that includes his wife, Wanda Miller, their twin sons, Justin and Jordan, and his three kids from previous marriages, Carole Lynne, Kenny Jr., and Christopher Cody. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.