Kenny Rogers Dies At The Age Of 81

By kncipat on March 21, 2020
Photo by Rebecca Naden – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

We lost an American Icon last night.  Kenny Rogers died at the age of 81. Kenny’s family said he passed from natural causes.

His career spanned over six decades with huge impacts in country, pop and rock music. 120 charting singles.  30 number ones. Over 100 million records sold as one of the best selling artists in music. 3 Grammys, 6 CMA awards, 8 ACM awards including Entertainer Of The Year, and recently enshrined in the Country Music Hall Of Fame. 

Kenny Rogers was born into a family of 8 children in 1938 and grew up in public housing.  Music grabbed him at an early age and Kenny formed his first band, The Scholars, while in high school.  In 1968 as lead singer of The First Edition, Kenny recorded his first big hit.  “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).”  Featuring Glen Campbell on guitar it reached #5 on the Billboard charts.  At the time the song was considered “psychedelic rock.”  With Kenny as lead singer The First Edition scored 6 more hits including “Something’s Burning,” “Reuben James,” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” which was written by Mel Tillis and originally sung by Waylon Jennings. 

In 1974 Kenny was signed to United Artists and shifted to country music.  He had a couple of minor hits and then exploded with his 1977 smash, “Lucille.” That song won the ACM Single and Song of the Year, and the CMA Single of the Year.  Kenny would later say that the success of “Lucille,” is where his country career really took off.  He would follow with “The Gambler,” which won him a Grammy and a made for tv movie. 

Kenny found his stride in country music releasing story songs “She Believes In Me,” and “You Decorated My Life,” which won a Grammy.  His duets over the next few years also had a huge impact.  “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer,” featuring Kim Carnes went to number 1.  Kenny’s cover of the Bob Seger song, “We’ve Got Tonight,” featuring Sheena Easton also went to number 1.  But it was his 1983 duet with Dolly Parton, “Islands In The Stream,” that had the most impact.  It reached number 1 on both the Billboard Country chart and the Billboard Pop Chart.  That feat went unmatched for 17 years until Lonestar’s “Amazed,” in 2000.  

Photo by Beth Gwinn/Redferns Via Getty Images

Kenny was not just a singer, songwriter, movie and tv star, he was also a philanthropist.  In 1977 he was the lead act for the Sikeston, Missouri Rodeo.  Kenny was so impressed with the work they Jaycees were doing for a small local children’s hospital (specifically helping children with Cerebral Palsy), that he began donating.  Those donations led to years of benefit concerts that raised a significant amount of money.  The founders were so thankful that when they expanded they named the new facility after him. Today it’s known as the Kenny Rogers Children’s Home. 

Kenny always had that easy going, nice guy, able to laugh at himself way about him.  He left an incredible mark on the country music community including his 2013 induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame.  I think the best way to honor Kenny Rogers is to spend some time with his music.


And of course there was his restaurant chain, Kenny Rogers Roasters, which worked its way into an entire episode of “Seinfeld.”


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