Grammy Award-winning actor and singer Kenny Rogers, a Grammy Award-winning walkman who has covered jazz, folk, country and pop with hits like Lucille, the Lady and Islands in the Stream, has taken over his character as a player on an LP and died Friday night. He was 81 years old.
He died at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, as spokesman Keith Hagan told the Associated Press. He was in hospice and died of natural causes, Hagan said.
The Houston-born singer, with the hoarse voice and silver beard, sold tens of millions of records, won three Grammy’s and became a star in TV movies based on readers and other songs, making him a superstar in the 70s and 80s. Rogers blossomed around the age of 60 before leaving the tour at the age of 79 in 2017. Despite the success of the crossover, he was always preferred as a country singer.
Kenny Rogers poses with his star at the Music City Walk of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.
Either you do what everyone else does and you do it better, or you do what no one else does and you don’t invite comparison, Rogers 2015 told the Associated Press. And I chose this path because I could never be better than Johnny Cash or Willie or Waylon in what they do. So I found something that doesn’t invite comparison with them. And I think people thought it was my wish to change the country music. But that was never my problem.
The story of Rogers who grew up in a community center in Houston Heights with seven siblings. At the age of 20 he had the golden single That Crazy Feeling under the name Kenneth Rogers, but when this early success declined, he joined a jazz band, the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a reserve bass player.
His breakthrough came in 1966 when he was asked to join the New Christy Minstrels folk group. The band reshaped the first edition and recorded a pop hit with the psychedelic song Just Drop In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In). Rogers and First Edition mixed country rock and folk with songs like Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town, the story of a Vietnamese veteran who asks his girlfriend to stay.
After the band broke up in 1974, Rogers started his solo career and achieved great success in 1977 with the sad country ballad Lucille, who entered the pop charts and Rogers brought his first Grammy. Suddenly a star, Rogers has been a string of successes for over a decade.
The Grammy-winning player, written by Don Schlitz, was released in 1978 and became his signature song with a choir: You need to know when to hold them and when to fold them. The song gave rise to a TV film of the same name and several other sequels with Roger’s professional player Brady Hawkes, and led to the latter’s long career as a TV actor and host of several specials.
Other hits include You Decorated My Life, Every Time Two Fools Collide with Dottie West, Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer with Kim Carnes and Coward of the County. One of his greatest successes was Lady, written by Lionel Ritchie, a cartographic topographer who worked six weeks in a row in 1980. Richie said in an interview with AP in 2017 that he often didn’t finish songs until he served them, as was the case with The Lady.
At first, the song was called Baby, Richie said. And because when I first sat down with him, within the first 30 minutes, he just said he had just married a real woman. A country boy like him, married to a lady. That’s what he said: By the way, what’s that song called? Richie says: Queen.
Over the years Rogers has often worked with female duet partners, of which Dolly Parton has been the most memorable. They were compiled at the suggestion of Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, who wrote the islands in the creek.
Barry produced the album for me, and he gave me this song as a gift, said Rogers AP 2017. So I went to check it out, went into the studio and sang it for four days. And finally, I looked at him and I said: Barry, I don’t even like this song anymore. And he said: You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton. I’ve been thinking: Dude, that guy’s a visionary.
When this idea was born, Parton was in a recording studio in Los Angeles.
As soon as she walked into that room, the song was never the same, Rogers said. He’s got a whole new mind.
The two singers toured together in 1984 and 1987, among others in Australia and New Zealand, and could be seen in a special HBO concert. Over the years, they will continue to record together, including their latest duet You Can’t Make Old Friends, released in 2013. Parton and Rogers redesigned the islands of the creek at his Nashville All-Star concert in October 2017.
Throughout his career, Rogers has invested his time and money in many other things, including a passion for photography that has resulted in several books and the autobiography Making It With Music. He had a chain of restaurants called Kenny Rogers Roasters, and he was a partner behind a riverboat in Branson, Missouri. He has also participated in numerous charity events, including the Red Cross and MusicCares, and was included in the We are the world record in the fight against hunger.
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In the 1990s, his ability to record hits declined, although he remained a popular live artist with regular tours. Nevertheless, he was a brilliant businessman and he never stopped looking for his way back into the charts.
At the age of 61, Rogers briefly returned to the national charts in 2000 with the hit Buy Me A Rose, thanks to his other favourite medium, television. The producers of the series Touched By An Angel wanted him to appear in the episode, and one of his managers suggested basing the episode on his last single. This cross-promotional event resulted in obtaining the first number one country song in 13 years.
The Rogers family is planning a private service for fear of the national emergency COWID-19, according to a statement released early Saturday. A public commemoration will take place later.