Kenny Rogers, who dominated the country and pop charts throughout the 70s and 80s, has died at the age of 81. The Houston, Texas native passed peacefully at his home from natural causes on Friday, March 20.
The Rogers family announced the news on Twitter, saying, "The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25PM at the age of 81. Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family."
The fourth of eight children, Rogers quickly took to music to escape reality. By high school, Rogers knew where his career was headed, so he formed a doo-wop vocal group called The Scholars in 1956. Two years later, Rogers scored some regional success with his solo song “That Crazy Feeling.”
Prior to his prosperous solo career, Rogers was also part of jazz group the Bobby Doyle Three, folk group the New Christy Minstrels, and rock band First Edition. After First Edition disbanded in 1976, Rogers officially launched his solo career, eventually focusing on a more country/pop crossover sound.
Throughout his 60-year career, Rogers racked up the hits, including 1977's “Lucille,” 1978's “The Gambler,” 1979's "Coward of the County," 1980's “Lady,” and 1983's "Islands in the Stream" with Dolly Parton.
In particular, the success of “The Gambler” led to a variety of other endeavors, including a made-for-TV five-film series starring Rogers, a slot machine, a book series, and a very popular GEICO Insurance commercial.
Rogers went on to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with more than 120 charting hit singles across various music genres and more than 100 million records sold worldwide. Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, and has won three Grammy Awards as well as six Country Music Awards.
In 2015, Rogers announced his farewell tour, The Gambler's Last Deal, which was slated to end in 2018. Rogers later cancelled the remainder of his tour after being advised by doctors to do so because of some health concerns. Rogers' final concert took place in Nashville on Oct. 25, 2017 at the Bridgestone Arena.
Aside from Rogers' acting and music career, he released two photo books, one memoir, and one novel, and collaborated with former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown Jr. to start up the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters.
Rogers is survived by his wife Wanda and their two children, as well as three children from his previous marriages. Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Rogers' family will be holding a small private service, but they plan to celebrate his life publicly at a later date.
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Article image: Kenny Rogers performing at the Frontier Fiesta in 1981 at the University of Houston. (University of Houston [Available through Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.)