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.