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Dolly Parton Tops an All-Star Lineup in a TV Tribute Concert to the Legendary Kenny Rogers

The CBS special, filmed before "The Gambler" singer's death in 2020, features Lady A, Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, Lionel Richie and the final performance of "Islands in the Stream"

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

Country great Kenny Rogers died more than a year ago, but his legendary career lives on in his timeless music — and now a one-hour TV special in his honor.

Airing Thursday night on CBS, Kenny Rogers: All In for the Gambler is gleaned from the epic tribute concert that was held on Oct. 25, 2017, in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on the cusp of the superstar's retirement. He died, at age 81 , from natural causes in March 2020.

For the first two-thirds of the show, an impressive array of stars — Reba McEntire, Lionel Richie, Chris Stapleton , Lady A, Little Big Town and Idina Menzel — each take a turn performing from Rogers' vast library of hits. But they're really mere warmup acts for the must-see main event, the final public appearance of one of country's most beloved duos, Rogers and Dolly Parton .

The show's producers offer a generous helping of their lengthy set, complete with Parton's spicy humor and Rogers' deadpan retorts. And, of course, they do what the sellout crowd came for: They sing.

Parton serenades a rapt Rogers with her signature "I Will Always Love You," and then the two top the show with what is the final performance of their classic "Islands in the Stream." It will no doubt be a memorable moment for TV viewers, as it was the live audience, but four years removed from the event, perhaps the most poignant moment arrives with the duo's opening song, their 2013 hit "You Can't Make Old Friends."

"How will I sing when you are gone?" Parton sings to Rogers. "'Cause it won't sound the same. Who'll join in on those harmony parts when I call your name?"

She delivers the words with love and tenderness, perhaps sensing the speed that time slips away.

For most of the special, Rogers holds court stageside with his wife, Wanda, enjoying the parade of friends paying tribute to a career that earned him 24 No. 1 singles, six CMA Awards, three Grammys and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Chris Stapleton leads off the show, taking on the unenviable task of delivering Rogers' signature, "The Gambler," and he ably meets the challenge with a soulful rendering. Lady A creatively turns "She Believes in Me" into a dialogue between the lyrics' two characters. Little Big Town offers a celestial vocal blend to the romantic ballad, "Through the Years," and Reba McEntire keeps it country for "Reuben James."

Idina Menzel brings her Broadway chops — and multi-octave range — to "We've Got Tonight," dueting with Lady A's Charles Kelley . Their performance lifts the arena crowd to their feet, and they stay standing for Lionel Richie, who enters the stage to sing "Lady," a song he wrote for Rogers. During the performance, Richie delivers another unforgettable moment when he tries to approximate Rogers' famous vibrato, drawing a hearty laugh from Rogers.

Kenny Rogers: All In for the Gambler airs at 9 p.m. CDT/10 p.m. EDT Thursday on CBS.

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Star-Studded Lineup Set for Kenny Rogers' Farewell Tribute Concert

Kenny Rogers recently announced his retirement from music after a decades-long career that yielded [...]

By Hannah Barnes - August 31, 2017 03:38 pm EDT

Kenny Rogers recently announced his retirement from music after a decades-long career that yielded massive success, and the country music industry is planning to honor one of its finest with a star-studded tribute concert.

Dubbed "All In for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers ' Farewell Concert Celebration," the tribute show will take place in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 25 and will feature artists including Dolly Parton , Little Big Town , Jamey Johnson, the Flaming Lips, Idina Menzel , Elle King and Alison Krauss.

New additions to the lineup include Chris Stapleton , Reba McEntire , Lady Antebellum and Wynonna Judd, who will perform solo and reunite with her mother, Naomi Judd. Rogers himself will also perform, and the star hand-picked the artists chosen to grace the stage. The event will also mark the last time Rogers and Parton will perform a duet.

"We're excited about having all of the people," Rogers said at a recent media event, via The Boot .

"[Little Big Town] sound like First Edition, and we've become good friends," he shared, comparing the country quartet to his early band. "Alison Krauss, I've never, ever, asked her for anything that she didn't say yes to without thinking about it. So I think you've got to step back and say, 'Wow. What a friend.' "

Rogers added that Broadway star Menzel is one of his favorite singers.

"That girl can sing ," he said. "I'm not sure my songs are good enough for her. But I look forward to seeing what she does with them, and we're thrilled to have her."

The country icon also mused on the impact he's had on the industry as a whole.

"It was never my design or interest in changing country music, because there's really only two ways you can do things," Rogers explained. "You come at it and you do what everyone else is doing and you do it better — and I didn't like my chances of competing with Johnny Cash … or you do something nobody else is doing."

Photo Credit: Instagram / @_kennyrogers

Sounds Like Nashville

Music’s Biggest Stars Go ‘All in for The Gambler’ at Kenny Rogers Farewell Celebration

Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Reba, Dolly Parton, and more took the stage to celebrate the iconic Kenny Rogers. 

Music’s Biggest Stars Go ‘All in for The Gambler’ at Kenny Rogers Farewell Celebration

The biggest names across all genres of music took the stage Wednesday night (Oct. 25) at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to celebrate Kenny Rogers at All in for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration. The Oak Ridge Boys , Don Henley, Idina Menzel, Lionel Richie , Billy Currington , Elle King , Little Big Town , Justin Moore , The Flaming Lips, Alison Krauss , Chris Stapleton and Dolly Parton were among those on hand to honor Rogers. Before Rogers and Parton ended the evening with a mic drop, a steady stream of artists hit the stage to share memories and songs from the iconic artist’s six decades long career.

“We’re here for Kenny, and so are you,” Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys said to the sold out crowd as the band took the stage to deliver a spirited rendition of Roger’s “Love or Something Like It,” a chart-topping 1978 hit that was the title track of Rogers’ fourth No. 1 album.

Rogers and his wife, Wanda, sat on the left side of the stage throughout the evening, soaking in every stellar performance. As the Oaks exited the stage, they stopped to embrace Rogers and share a few words.

Charles Esten , who stars as Deacon Claybourne on CMT’s Nashville , served as emcee for the evening. He introduced pop songstress Elle King, looking sassy in a short red and black outfit. She delivered a personality-packed cover of “Tulsa Turnaround,” a song Rogers had first recorded early in his career as a member of the First Edition.

Next on the stage, an all-star ensemble of Rogers’ former opening acts performed Rogers’ 1982 hit “Blaze of Glory.” Travis Tritt , T. Graham Brown, Lee Greenwood , Billy Dean, Crystal Gayle , Steve and Rudy Gatlin, T.G. Sheppard and Kim Forester of the Forester Sisters traded lines while Rogers smiled from the side of the stage.

Justin Moore performed an excellent rendition of “Lucille,” the 1977 blockbuster hit that paved the way for Rogers’ successful solo career in country music after he exited the First Edition. Moore was followed by Linda Davis and her daughter, Lady Antebellum ’s Hillary Scott . The mother daughter duo shared memories of their longtime friendship with Rogers and sang a beautiful cover of his nostalgic hit “Twenty Years Ago.”

The great performances continued with Billy Currington delivering a sultry take on “Morning Desire,” followed by Aaron Lewis showing his traditional country chops with a solid rendition of Rogers’ chart-topping 1979 hit “Coward of the County.”

Wynonna took the stage next and got a rousing standing ovation before she even sang. “You may be seated,” she said smiling appreciatively at the crowd before launching into “You Turn the Light On.”

“When I was 20-years-old, I went and saw this man in concert, back when country music was more country. And it was sweet and simple like me,” Wynonna said with a mischievous grin. She was joined on stage by her mother Naomi for a Judds reunion as they sang “Back to the Well.”

Next up, the Flaming Lips delivered a cool version of the classic hit “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” which was written by country legend Mel Tillis.

“Are y’all having fun yet?” Reba asked the crowd as she took the stage to sing the hit “Reuben James.” “We’ve had the best time backstage. It’s like a family reunion. Everybody’s hugging everybody and talking.”

After her performance, Rogers’ bandmates from the First Edition took to the stage for a photo op with the sold out crowd cheering enthusiastically behind them. Jamey Johnson got the music flowing again with “Sweet Music Man,” a hit ballad that Rogers wrote by himself that became a top ten hit in 1977. “You already signed my guitar or I’d be over there with a Sharpie,” Johnson said to Rogers. He got a standing ovation for “Sweet Music Man” and then launched into the First Edition’s hit “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).”

Alison Krauss put her haunting soprano to excellent use on “Love the World Away” and received a standing ovation. Kris Kristofferson received a standing ovation the minute he stepped into the spotlight and another after he wowed the crowd with “Me and Bobby McGee.” Lady Antebellum followed with Rogers’ huge crossover hit “She Believes in Me,” with Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley trading vocals on the verses and Dave Haywood adding to the beautiful harmonies. They received a standing ovation as did Little Big Town who hit the stage next to perform “Through the Years.”

The crowd took to their feet in thunderous applause as Don Henley stepped into the spotlight to honor his longtime friend and fellow Texan. Henley performed a compelling rendition of “Desperado,” the Eagles classic that has been cut by numerous artists over the years, including Rogers.

Looking stunning in a blue floor-length gown, Idina Menzel hit the stage next to sing “You Decorated My Life,” before Lady A’s Kelley returned to duet with her on “We’ve Got Tonight,” the Bob Seger classic that Rogers turned into a country hit as a duet with Sheena Easton in 1983. Menzel and Kelley’s duet earned an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd.

Esten returned to the stage to share that Rogers had become friends with the next artist when he asked him to write a song for him. That song was “Lady,” penned by Lionel Richie, who moved center stage to unleash one of the most potent performances of the night. He was followed by Chris Stapleton singing “The Gambler,” while Rogers smiled from the sidelines.

During the evening, the crowd had been anticipating Roger’s performance with Parton and they weren’t disappointed. Throughout the night, the video screens had been displaying vintage photos of Rogers’ career over the years. Before Parton took the stage, the crowd was treated to a video of “Real Love” with classic clips of Kenny & Dolly over the years. When the two walked out to center stage, the crowd roared. And, as always, Parton gave the crowd their money’s worth, asking Rogers about his life and career as well as teasing him about their plastic surgeries, noting they both used to be bigger before they found “jiffy suck” (better known as liposuction). They delivered a touching version of “You Can’t Make Old Friends” and Rogers, who has trouble standing for extended periods of time, sat on a stool while Dolly sang “I Will Always Love You.” “I know I’m artificial, but I like to think my heart is real,” Parton said. “I have a spot for you that’s never ever going to be touched by anybody else.”

Before they launched into the closing number, “Islands in the Stream,” Rogers addressed the crowd, “I want to thank you so much for coming here tonight to help me say goodbye,” said the 79-year-old icon, who had previously announced he was retiring from the road after The Gambler’s Last Deal Tour. “It’s really been fun for me, and tonight has been as much about me saying thank you as saying goodbye.”

“I can’t think of anybody else I’d rather sail away with,” Parton said as the duo launched into “Island in the Stream.” They concluded the performance with a mic drop that put an exclamation point on a night of great music those in attendance will never forget.

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration: All In For the Gambler

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration: All In For the Gambler brought together fans, friends and music icons to celebrate Kenny Rogers’ final farewell to Nashville. The program features performances by Dolly Parton, Chris Stapleton, Idina Menzel, Lady A, Lionel Richie, Little Big Town, Reba McEntire, Wynonna, The Oak Ridge Boys and Kenny Rogers along with many other special guests. Songs include "The Gambler," "Lucille," "Islands in the Stream," "Lady" and "We Got Tonight."

Stream online below or on the PBS App with Nine PBS Passport, a member benefit that provides you with extended access to an on-demand library of quality public television programming. Learn more about Nine PBS Passport .

Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration: All In for the Gambler

Kenny rogers farewell concert celebration.

Celebrate Kenny Rogers’ farewell to Nashville with Dolly Parton and other special guests.

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kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

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‘All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers Farewell Celebration’ Full Of Surprises And Emotional Moments

October 26, 2017 Press Release In the News 0

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  – Kenny Rogers’ musical career has touched many different styles of music throughout various generations, and his farewell performance to Nashville,  All In For The Gambler , served as a reminder of the musical impact that his career has had – and will continue to make for years to come. An all-star cast of Rogers’ contemporaries – and many of today’s hottest musical artists – turned up last night (October 25) at the Bridgestone Arena in Music City to pay tribute to the Country Music Hall of Fame member, who is in the midst of his farewell tour, “The Gambler’s Last Deal.” Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night belonged to Dolly Parton, who teamed with Rogers one last time on their 1983 hit “Islands In The Stream” after surprising both Rogers – and the audience – with a heartfelt performance of “I Will Always Love You” to her friend and collaborator. The two also reminisced about their lengthy friendship – which dates back to a Rogers appearance on her syndicated TV show from the mid 1970’s – almost a decade before they first teamed up. The two also closed out their performing career together with the Grammy-nominated “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” a single from 2013.

The evening was a mixture of song performances that balanced many of the singer’s iconic hits – as well as many of the early days of Rogers’ career as the lead vocalist of The First Edition. Jamey Johnson paid tribute to the singer’s versatility with a raucous take on Mickey Newbury’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” a First Edition hit from five decades ago. The Flaming Lips shined the light on “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” with Reba McEntire tipping the hat to the group’s “Reuben James.” Elle King gave a jaw-dropping performance of “Tulsa Turnaround,” one of the First Edition’s lesser-known tracks – that Rogers himself recorded for his 1979 album Kenny. Rogers’ fellow Texan Kris Kristofferson paid tribute to the band’s cover of “Me and Bobby McGee,” which he wrote.

Of course, the main focus of the evening was on the record-setting solo career Rogers embarked on in the mid-1970s, and those hits were on full display during the evening. Justin Moore nodded to the beginning of the singer’s hit making era with “Lucille,” with spellbinding performances taking place from The Oak Ridge Boys (“Love Or Something Like It”), Chris Stapleton (“The Gambler”), and Lady Antebellum (“She Believes In Me”). A special moment took place with the appearance of Don Henley – who once lived with Rogers and his family – to perform the classic “Desperado,” which Rogers cut in 1977 for his Daytime Friends album.

Many of the 80’s and 90’s hits of the singer were featured during The Gambler’s Last Deal as well. Billy Currington delivered a sensual take on “Morning Desire,” with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Idina Menzel teaming up for “We’ve Got Tonight,” a 1983 Rogers hit with Sheena Easton. Two of the singers’ most frequent collaborators figured prominently in this era with appearances with Lionel Richie giving a beautiful take on “’Lady,” a number one Pop and Country hit that he wrote for Kenny’s Greatest Hits album in 1980, and Alison Krauss saluted the singer with a pristine version of his romantic ballad “Love The World Away.” Another incredible performance came from Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and mother Linda Davis – who has toured extensively with Rogers over the years – uniting on stage for the singer’s 1987 chart-topper “Twenty Years Ago.”

There were several other great musical moments during All In For The Gambler, with Naomi and Wynonna Judd reuniting for “Back To The Well,” and an all-star group of Rogers’ former opening acts paying tribute to the icon with a sing-along performance of his 1982 hit “Blaze Of Glory,” including Travis Tritt, The Gatlin Brothers, Kim Forester, T.G. Sheppard, Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood, T. Graham Brown, and Billy Dean.

Blackbird Presents’ Keith Wortman, creator and executive producer of Nashville’s recent highly acclaimed “Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard,” is the creator and executive producer of “All In For The Gambler.” GRAMMY® Award Winner Don Was served as music director, and presided over a stellar house band backing the performers at this historic concert event taping. Kenny Rogers’ manager, Ken Levitan, also served as executive producer. The event was filmed and recorded for multi-platform distribution throughout traditional media (worldwide broadcast, music, and digital).

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Country star Kenny Rogers passes away on this day in 2020

B orn in 1938, Kenny Rogers went on to live a life of success through the age of 81. The American pop and country singer-songwriter ("The Gambler"; "Through the Years") and entrepreneur (Kenny Rogers Roasters), died of natural causes on March 20, 2020.

Country star Kenny Rogers passes away on this day in 2020

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Kenny Rogers Reveals Farewell Tour Dates: The Ram Report

By Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone

“The Gambler’s Last Deal” is the fitting title of Kenny Rogers ‘ farewell tour, kicking off May 13 and running well into 2017. The country music icon is parking his tour bus for good after a more than five-decade career for the history books.

Rogers has released a long list of cities and dates (below) for the first leg of the trek, with many more to come. Among the stops are New Orleans, Bakersfield, Atlanta, London and Dublin. Linda Davis is along for the ride on all dates, with Charlie Worsham also appearing on select European dates.

“I’m excited about making one more sweep around the world,” says Rogers. “This final tour is going to be a celebration of all of my music, and I know each night will be truly special.”

Rogers insists his retirement has more to do with family than age. When announcing his farewell travels last year, he expressed the need to spend more time with his wife and kids. Still, he is not hanging up all of his many career hats. The Gambler is currently designing a “Kenny’s World” hotel, and has at least two more books of photography in the works.

“One will be called American Beauty , and it’s all waterfalls and beautiful canyon shots,” Rogers told Rolling Stone Country last year. “And the other will be places I’ve been and things I’ve seen, and it’ll be pictures from China, Africa, Europe, Switzerland — over the Alps in a helicopter.

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The Gambler’s Last Deal Tour Dates

May 13 – Mahnomen, MN @ Shooting Star Casino May 14 – Red Wing, MN @ Treasure Island Resort & Casino May 15 – Clear Lake, IA @ Surf Ballroom May 21 – Rochester, NY @Kodak Center for Performing Arts May 22 – Montclair, NJ @ Wellmont Theater May 26 – Portland, ME @ Maine State Pier May 27 – Watertown, NY @ Watertown Fairgrounds Arena May 28 – Salamanca, NY @ Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino June 4 – Crockett, TX @ Crockett Civic Center – SOLD OUT June 17 – Vienna, VA @ The Filene Center at Wolf Trap June 19 – Atlanta, GA @ Chastain Park Amphitheater June 22 – Del Mar, CA @ San Diego County Fair June 24 – Lincoln, CA @ Thunder Valley Casino Resort June 25 – Laughlin, NV @ The E Center – Edgewater Casino Resort June 26 – Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre June 28 – Santa Rosa, CA @ Luther Burbank Center for the Arts June 29 – Saratoga, CA @ The Mountain Winery June 30 – Thousand Oaks, CA @ Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza July 1 – Bakersfield, CA @ Bright House Networks Amphitheatre July 2 – Indio, CA @ Fantasy Springs Resort Hotel & Casino July 9 – Grand Ronde, OR @ Spirit Mountain Casino July 14 – Tulsa, OK @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa July 15 – Enid, OK @ Enid Event Center July 16 – Stockdale, TX @ Kosciusko Hall July 22 – Anderson, IN @ Hoosier Park Racing & Casino July 23 – Kettering, OH @ Fraze Pavilion July 24 – Highland Park, IL @ Ravinia Festival July 31 – Columbus, OH @ Ohio State Fair August 6 – Singapore, Singapore @ Star Theatre August 9 – Bangkok, Thailand @ Royal Paragon Hall August 11 – Manila, Philippines @ Araneta Coliseum September 4 – Nichols, NY @ Tioga Downs September 16 – Morristown, NJ @ Mayo Performing Arts Center October 6 – North Little Rock, AR @ Verizon Arena October 7 – Memphis, TN @ Orpheum Theatre October 8 – New Orleans, LA @ Saenger Theatre October 31 – Glasgow, Scotland @ The SSE Hydro November 3 – Amsterdam Zuid, The Netherlands @ Heineken Music Hall November 7 – Dublin, Ireland @ 3Arena November 8 – Belfast, UK @ SSE Arena November 10 – London, UK @ Palladium November 12 – London, UK @ Eventim Apollo

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Kenny Rogers, 1938-2020: A legacy of memorable songs and stories: tribute

  • Updated: Mar. 21, 2020, 3:05 p.m. |
  • Published: Mar. 21, 2020, 2:30 p.m.

Kenny Rogers: 1938-2020

This May 17, 1989 file photo shows Kenny Rogers posing for a portrait in Los Angeles. AP File

  • Chuck Yarborough, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Kenny Rogers ’ family confirmed that the singer died peacefully Friday night at the age of 81 at his home in Georgia, surrounded by those who loved him.

Well, not all of those who loved him. One of those who spoke out about her loss was fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Dolly Parton , his duet partner on the famous “Islands in the Stream.”

“You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone,” Parton said in a tearful video she posted on Twitter . “I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend.”

Many, many of those same feelings were echoed by those here in Northeast Ohio.

Kenny Rogers: 1938-2020

In this Sept. 27, 1983 file photo, Country Music singers Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers rehearse a song for their appearance on the TV show "Live... And in Person" in Los Angeles. Rogers, who embodied “The Gambler” persona and whose musical career spanned jazz, folk, country and pop, has died at 81. A representative says Rogers died at home in Georgia on Friday, March 20, 2020. AP File

“He was a regular on ‘Upbeat’ with the First Edition,” said David Spero in a Facebook post.

Rogers’ family said that because of coronavirus concerns, services would be small and private, but that a larger memorial — perhaps a concert — was likely once the pandemic risk has faded.

Former WGAR FM/99.5 morning show host — and Country Radio Hall of Famer — Jim Mantel recalled meeting Rogers for the first time and expecting to find the prototypical arrogant country star.

“I expected Kenny to be a ‘stuck up, better than you are’ kind of celebrity, I don’t know why but I just got that impression,” said Mantel in a post on his own Facebook page. “Boy was I wrong! He ended up being one of my favorite people to interview.”

“He was a storyteller, whether singing or talking,” Mantel wrote in another post. “Every question was answered not with a yes or no, but a story. He knew that’s what made for great interviews and publicity.”

I can attest to that. Back in 2015, I did an email interview with Rogers for a concert at what’s now MGM Northfield and was then the Hard Rock Rocksino.

Kenny Rogers: 1938-2020

In this March 22, 1979 file photo, Kenny Rogers, center, rolls the dice at Regine's in New York. Rogers, who embodied “The Gambler” persona and whose musical career spanned jazz, folk, country and pop, has died at 81. AP File

It was his annual Christmas show, but it also featured music from throughout his career, beginning as a member of the New Christy Minstrels, continuing with the First Edition and finally as a country star, both as a solo artist and in his famous duets with Parton.

But it was also his farewell tour, as he was 76 at the time and the father of 11-year-old twins with whom he wanted to spend the time he had left.

“Well, I’ve always had a bucket list, so to speak, for my life, and my bucket list now concerns my kids,” he said. “They want to go to Europe, so I’m going to take them to Europe, and I want to take them to Alaska for the salmon run because it is so special.

“There are things I’ve done that I know I’ve enjoyed, and I want them to experience that, too,” Rogers said.

He knew he’d had to make choices, and he knew his earlier family — he had two adult boys from a prior marriage — had paid the consequences in terms of missed time together.

“You come to a certain point in your life where it’s not about you anymore, and for me, it’s about my wife and my boys,” he said.

The words that followed were eerily prophetic.

“I want to be able to do things with them and for them, so when I’m gone, they can look back and remember the time we were together and how cool those things we were able to experience together were,” he said.

No fan would truly begrudge Rogers that time, either. Not after songs like “Lucille,” “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Coward of the County” and “Just Dropped In” (his huge hit with the First Edition, and the last with the group before launching his solo career).

Kenny Rogers: 1938-2020

This Feb. 20, 1978 file photo shows Kenny Rogers at his home in Brentwood, Calif. Rogers, who embodied “The Gambler” persona and whose musical career spanned jazz, folk, country and pop, has died at 81. AP File

Those songs are as recognizable today among Millennials as they were back when they were new for Boomers, Gen-Xers, Gen-Z and whatever else comes down the pike. Walk into any karaoke bar — if and when they reopen, of course — and you’ll hear a couple massacring Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and a solo guy trying to match Rogers’ feathery croon on “Lucille.”

“I call songs like ‘The Gambler’ and ‘Lady’ my artillery,” said Rogers in 2015. “With songs like ‘Lucille’ and ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,’ it’s such a thrill to hear people enjoying joining in.

“Someone once asked me if I ever get tired of singing my hits and I said, ‘No, because I’d hate to be the guy who goes out there without them,’ because that’s a great comfort zone. I’ll keep doing them as long as people pay to hear me and as long as it’s fun, and both of those are still very much true.”

Houston native Rogers took his strength from his mother, a nurse’s assistant who, maybe not so ironically, was named Lucille.

“When my career hit the depths one time, my mom said, ‘Son, you’re still playing music [and] that’s all you ever wanted to do. Relax, enjoy where you are,’ ” Rogers said.

“She had a third-grade education, but she was full of wisdom,” he said, noting that “part of the fun of getting to the top of the mountain is the climb.”

Kenny, know that your fans have one wish: that the view from the top of that mountain is everything you hoped it would be.

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Country Music Icon Kenny Rogers Dies at 81

By Chris Morris

Chris Morris

Music Reporter

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Kenny Rogers performs at the Country Music Awards in Nashville, 1977Kenny Rogers 1977, Nashville, USA

Vocalist Kenny Rogers , who dominated the pop and country charts in the 1970s and 1980s with a string of sleekly tailored hits and won three Grammys, has died. He was 81. Rogers “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” a representative for the singer said in a statement. Due to the national COVID-19 emergency, the family is planning a small private service at this time with a public memorial planned for a later date.

Rogers had announced a farewell tour in 2015 and was able to keep it going through December 2017. In April 2018, shortly before he was to spend a few months finishing out the tour after a break, he announced that he was having to call off the remaining dates (including a planned appearance at the Stagecoach Festival in California), due to unspecified “health challenges.” “I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” Rogers said his April 2018 statement. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years on ‘ The Gambler ’s Last Deal’ tour. I could never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career and the happiness I’ve experienced as a result of that.”

A special, “Biography: Kenny Rogers,” had been announced by A&E earlier this month, set to air April 13. The special is said to be largely built around footage from the all-star salute Rogers received in Nashville on Oct. 25, 2017, just a couple of months before his final concert appearances. Among the guests who joined him for that sentimental sendoff at the Bridgestone Arena were Dolly Parton , Lionel Richie , Don Henley, Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss , Chris Stapleton, Little Big Town, Reba McEntire, the Flaming Lips and the Judds.

Rogers’ signature song “The Gambler” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2018 . It was the most recent of a lifetime of honors bestowed on the singer, which included induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, three Grammys and six CMA Awards.

Rogers was one of the progenitors of country-pop crossover at the superstar level. “I came into country music not trying to change country music but trying to survive,” he said in a 2016 interview with CMT.com . “And so I did songs that were not country but were more pop. Nowadays they’re not doing country songs at all. What they’re doing is creating their own genre of country music. But I told somebody the other day, country music is what country people will buy. If the country audience doesn’t buy it, they’ll kick it out. And if they do, then it becomes country music. It’s just era of country music we’re in.”

After establishing himself commercially via rock- and pop-oriented singles with his group the First Edition, the bearded, prematurely gray Rogers was launched into the top rank of crossover country artists with a string of singles for United Artists Records.

His appealing, sometimes gritty voice propelled 20 solo 45s to No. 1 on the country charts from 1977-87. Two of them, his 1980 reading of Lionel Richie’s “Lady” and his 1983 collaboration with Dolly Parton “Islands in the Stream” (penned by the Bee Gees), also topped the pop lists. He worked profitably with a number of other female vocalists, including Dottie West, Sheena Easton, Kim Carnes and Anne Murray.

Country historian Bill C. Malone noted that Rogers’ ingratiating style “has been the chief source of his immense success. Rogers is a consummate storyteller, with an intimate and compelling style that almost demands the listener’s concentration. When his husky tenor voice slips down into a raspy, gravelly register, as it sometimes does, Rogers pulls the listener even further into his confidence.”

Rogers parlayed his music success into a successful side career as an actor. His 1978 country chart-topper “The Gambler” spawned five popular TV movies, while some of his other hits also inspired small-screen features.

Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association the same year.

Born and raised in Houston, he was the fourth of eight children in a poor family. He took to the guitar as an adolescent, and would sometimes perform with another aspiring local musician and future star, Mickey Gilley.

His early professional career was stylistically eclectic. While in high school, he formed a vocal group, the Scholars, which recorded for Carlton Records, a local label. After a brief stint at the University of Houston, he played bass with the jazz groups of Bobby Doyle and Kirby Stone.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1966, he joined the folk-pop unit the New Christy Minstrels, a group that also numbered such performers as Carnes, the Byrds’ Gene Clark, “Eve of Destruction” vocalist Barry McGuire and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Jerry Yester among its members at one time or another.

With fellow Minstrels Mike Settle, Terry Williams and Thelma Camacho, Rogers founded the rock-leaning group the First Edition in 1967. Fronted by Rogers (whose name would be appended to the act’s moniker in 1969), the group notched two top 10 pop hits: “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” (No. 5, 1968), a version of Mickey Newbury’s slice of pop psychedelia, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (No. 6, 1969), Mel Tillis’ downbeat song about the faithless wife of a handicapped Vietnam vet.

The First Edition’s fortunes began to wane in the early ’70s, and Rogers signed a solo deal with UA in 1976. He struck almost immediate pay dirt with “Lucille,” an absorbing vignette about a barroom encounter with a disillusioned woman and her estranged husband. The number became Rogers’ first No. 1 country hit and reached No. 5 on the national pop chart. It also scored Rogers his first Grammy, for best male country vocal performance.

Rogers also partnered with longtime female star West, and the duo racked up three No. 1 country singles for UA and then Liberty in 1978-81: “Every Time Two Fools Collide,” “All I Ever Need Is You” and “What Are We Doin’ in Love.”

He notched five more No. 1 solo country singles by the end of the decade. The biggest of these were the Grammy-winning “The Gambler” (also No. 16 pop in 1978) and the backwoods narrative “Coward of the County” (also No. 3 pop in 1979). They pushed the albums “The Gambler” and “Kenny” to No. 12 and No. 5, respectively, on the pop album charts. Each inspired a popular TV movie; Rogers would portray Brady Hawkes, protagonist of “The Gambler,” in a series of telepics that ran through 1994.

On the heels of a No. 1 greatest hits set in 1980, Rogers’ hits of the decade for Liberty and RCA found him moving increasingly into pop terrain and focusing on romantic balladry. “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” (the latter one of many duets with frequent partner Parton) solidified his standing as country’s biggest crossover attraction; his rendering of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” with Sheena Easton ruled the country chart and rose to No. 6 on the pop chart. In all, he recorded 23 top 10 country hits during the decade, five of which crossed to the pop side.

Though it failed to even dent the pop charts, “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” Rogers’ duet with singer-pianist Ronnie Milsap (and a remake of a duet by former bandmate Kim Carnes and Barbra Streisand) became Rogers’ next-to-last No. 1 country single in 1987. It also reaped a Grammy for best country vocal duet performance.

Like many another star of his era, Rogers began to fall out of fashion in the ’90s, as a younger generation of country musicians flexing a less countrypolitan style supplanted him. He made his last toplining appearance in a pair of telepics as reformed gambler Jack MacShayne in 1994. In 1999, he notched a final No. 1 country hit, “Buy Me a Rose,” with Billy Dean and Alison Krauss.

In the new millennium, sporadic releases on a number of independent labels and majors Capitol Nashville and Warner Bros. Nashville performed respectably on the country album charts but produced no major hits.

From the ’90s forward, as he maintained a busy touring schedule, Rogers increasingly turned his attention to various entrepreneurial enterprises, opening a chain of fast-food chicken outlets, Kenny Rogers Roasters, and a Sprint car manufacturing firm, Gamblers Chassis.

He issued a memoir, “Luck or Something Like It,” in 2012, and a novel, “What Are the Chances,” in 2013. That same year, he was the recipient of the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. He received a similar honor from CMT with its Artist of a Lifetime Award in 2015.

Always active on the road, Rogers announced his retirement in September 2015, not long after a widely aired commercial for Geico insurance saw him reprising “The Gambler” for comedic effect.

At the Oct. 25, 2017 tribute concert in Nashville, Rogers joined in jocular exchanges with some of the homage-payers, notably Parton, who quipped, “I want to see what condition your condition’s really in.” They reprised their recorded duets of “You Can’t Make Old Friends” and “Islands In the Stream,” and Parton additionally sang him her own signature song, “I Will Always Love You.”

Footage of the 2017 concert was filmed by Blackbird Productions but went unseen until it was set for inclusion in the A&E “Biography” special airing in April.

“I hope my fans understand that I’m a father first and a singer second,” Rogers said about his planned retirement from touring, in a 2016 interview with CMT.com, mentioning at that time that he had 11-year-old twin boys with his wife, Wanda Miller.. “As it turns out, I’m missing some very great parts of my boys’ lives. I know as well as anybody else how that time gets away from you. And I don’t want to miss it. I just worry about how much longer I’m going to be here, and I want to have time to spend with them. It’s pretty simple.”

Married five times, Rogers is survived by his last wife Wanda and five children.

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Kenny Rogers, country-pop hitmaker and crossover star, dies at 81

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Kenny Rogers was broke, three times divorced and picking out a living as a bass player with a country-rock outfit called “The First Edition” when a sentimental ballad about a lovesick husband rolled onto his lap.

In “Lucille,” Rogers found a comfortable middle ground in the vast stretches between country and pop music, fertile turf that would yield a remarkable string of aching love songs and narrative ballads about gamblers, drifters and lost souls searching for love.

While country music purists balked at his syrupy message-in-a-song ballads, his fans packed arenas that only the titans of rock could fill, his hits climbed the charts and his genial persona and bourbon-smooth voice became a natural fit in America in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Never far from the spotlight, Rogers died Friday of natural causes while in hospice care at his home in Sandy Springs, Ga., said his representative, Keith Hagan. He was 81.

“I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart’s broken. A big ol’ chunk of it has gone with him today,” Dolly Parton, the musician’s frequent singing partner, said in a video tribute on Twitter.

Over the decades, the musical storyteller racked up an impressive catalog of hits — initially as a member of the First Edition starting in the late 1960s and later as a solo artist and duet partner with Parton — and earned three Grammy Awards, 19 nominations and a slew of accolades from country-music awards shows.

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. https://t.co/adxAgiMW2s pic.twitter.com/nggWiiotMT — Kenny Rogers (@_KennyRogers) March 21, 2020

Credited with helping to blur the lines between country and pop, Rogers was belatedly inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

“I think part of it is that there’s a certain amount of resentment that I made country go pop, and yet I think it actually added a lot of viewers to it,” Rogers told the Boston Globe that same year. “As you can see now, it’s so much more pop than where I took it.”

Coming up in an era when Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson shaped the heart of the genre, Rogers remained a firm believer that country music was “the white man’s rhythm and blues.”

“It’s where the pain is. And I think, to some extent, I ‘popped’ it so much that it lost some of the pain,” Rogers told CMT in 2012 . “I never meant to do that, but on some of the songs through the years, like ‘She Believes in Me’ or ‘You Decorated My Life,’ those are not country country songs.”

Rogers believed he took country music to a mainstream audience, and he was instantly recognized for his signature look: a neatly trimmed beard, a shock of silver hair and flared shirt collars. He modeled his aesthetic after “Grizzly Adams” star Dan Haggerty for a particular reason. When he started out in his first group, the First Edition, he was the oldest member.

“I was three or four years older than all of them,” Rogers said in 2014 . “They were looking for someone younger. I let my hair grow, I grew a beard — I got that from Dan Haggerty, the actor who was on TV at the time, and I liked the way he looked. I put an earring in my ear and wore sunglasses. After that, they wanted me with everything they had.”

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

At the height of his success, Rogers was a staple on the country-music charts, starred in TV movies and even fronted a fast-food chain bearing his name. (Kenny Rogers Roasters was referenced and ridiculed in shows ranging from “Seinfeld” to “Fresh Off the Boat.”) Rogers toed the line between risk-taking artist and crowd-pleasing performer, earning rave reviews from fans but the frequent critical ire of reviewers hoping for a fresh take on his classics.

Kinder reviews of his shows in this newspaper described Rogers “singing with musical understanding, subtlety and warmth” and another calling him “the kind of performer who generates undying, all-accepting love from his listeners.”

His husky voice conveyed the heart-wrenching tales of “Lady’s” knight in shining armor, the advice-dealing “Gambler” and “Lucille’s” lovelorn husband left with four hungry kids and a crop in the fields.

But that success, he repeatedly said, came with a steep price.

“There’s a fine line between being driven and being selfish,” Rogers wrote in his bestselling 2012 memoir, “Luck or Something Like It.”

He admitted to crossing that line many times.

Staying on the road six months at a time without going home during his early marriages was among those selfish acts. He disconnected with his wives and young children, but took responsibility for that later in life.

Upon announcing his initial retirement in 2015 , Rogers vowed not to make the same mistake with his twin boys, Justin and Jordan, whom he had with his fifth wife, Wanda Miller. Rogers married Janice Gordon in 1958, who, as the story goes, became pregnant when Rogers lost his virginity at 19. He went on to marry Jean Rogers 1960 (they split in 1963), Margo Anderson in 1964 (they split in 1976), Marianne Gordon in 1977 (they split in 1993) and finally Wanda Miller in 1997.

“Not many people get to see the end of the rainbow, and I think I have,” Rogers said. “I think I’ve had the beauty of this career, and the beauty of getting to know you guys daily out on the road, and watching you kids grow up with me.”

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

Rogers’ farewell retirement tour, the Gambler’s Last Deal, was cut short in 2018 so that the singer could “work through a series of health challenges.” He had another health scare in May 2019 that landed him in the hospital for dehydration.

“I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” Rogers said in his 2018 statement. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years.... I could never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career and the happiness I’ve experienced as a result of that.”

Kenneth Ray Rogers was born Aug. 21, 1938, in Houston, the fourth of Edward Floyd and Lucille Lois Hester Rogers’ eight children. His heritage was mixed: Irish on his mother’s side and potentially Native American on his father’s because of his grandmother, Della Rogers.

“We were poor people living in the projects, but we didn’t know it because we were all in the same boat,” he wrote of his upbringing in a Houston housing project built in the 1950s.

Though he grew up amid segregation, he said he always liked to think of himself as “color blind” and wrote of memories of friendly faces and people sitting out on their porches.

In high school, he formed his first band — a doo-wop group called the Scholars — and hit the charts young as a solo artist in the late 1950s. He performed “That Crazy Feeling” on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” and played standup bass with the Bobby Doyle Three jazz trio. The sound influenced his music, but his mother’s passion for the country sound and listening to it growing up kept him in the country lane.

In 1966, he joined the folk group the New Christy Minstrels; then came the First Edition, which scored its first hit in 1967 with the LSD ode “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In).” They followed that with “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” “Reuben James,” “Something’s Burning” and “Tell It All Brother.” Their success came with a name change, and the band started going by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.

Rogers left First Edition in 1976, and the rift wasn’t easy for the young singer.

“When the First Edition broke up, it was like my life had just lost all the footing because I was so used to having all these guys behind me…. I think when you walk out there alone, you better be prepared,” Rogers said .

But his solo career soon took off and so did his unique blend of country and pop. The heartbreaking “Lucille” and its vivid storytelling marked his first breakthrough. Written by Roger Bowling and Hal Bynum, the bitter-edged 1977 tune and its corresponding Grammy Award launched him to superstardom.

He followed up his first solo hit with duets with Dottie West (“Daytime Friends,” “Sweet Music Man” and “Love or Something Like It”), followed by his major hits, “The Gambler” and “Coward of the County.” The latter two songs were adapted into TV shows he starred in.

Rogers said that when he first recorded “The Gambler,” written by Don Schlitz, he just thought it was about gambling. But Schlitz wasn’t a gambler and, in fact, wrote the song about his life philosophy. Schlitz simply used gambling as an analogy, yielding the iconic lyrics: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em / Know when to fold ’em / Know when to walk away / And know when to run.”

Kenny Rogers on his farewell tour in 2017.

“The Gambler” TV movie of 1980, starring Rogers in the western’s title role as Brady Hawkes, spawned four follow-ups and became the longest-running miniseries franchise on television at the time. It forged Rogers’ image as a media perennial — a lovable con man gone good who sang romantic songs.

His version of Lionel Richie’s “Lady” in 1980 was a pivot from the commercial country hits with which he had been identified, according to a 1987 review in The Times. And his decision the same year to release “Gideon,” a relatively uncommercial concept album about the Old West, was even bolder.

His 1983 hit duet with Parton, “Islands in the Stream,” written by the Bee Gees, and the duo’s palpable chemistry cemented Rogers’ lifelong friendship with Parton.

“Everybody always thought we were having an affair. We didn’t. We just teased each other and flirted with each other for 30 years,” he said on HuffPost live in 2013. “It keeps a lot of tension there.”

Rogers reunited with Parton in 2013 for “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” a poignant duet that celebrated their decades-long bond and the title track from his studio album that year.

Rogers was among the artists who participated in the 1985 recording of “We Are the World,” raising millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa. The following year, he co-chaired the embattled “Hands Across America” fundraiser and also had an operation to remove a cyst from his vocal cords.

By 1998, Rogers’ stream of steady hits waned and he launched his Dreamcatcher label with Jim Mazza. The move marked a major career comeback and saw him revisit the top of the charts with 1999’s “The Greatest,” which he followed up with “Buy Me a Rose.” But in 2001, the label immersed him in a legal showdown with his longtime manager, Ken Kragen, who shepherded the careers of Richie, Trisha Yearwood and Travis Tritt.

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

Other side projects that kept the singer active were tennis and photography. He shot a portrait of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton at the White House and in 2014 was awarded an honorary masters of photography from the Professional Photographers of America.

Rogers also released books of his photos, wrote several short stories and appeared off-Broadway in the Christmas musical “The Toy Shoppe.” The Christmas theme continued with the 2015 release of his “Once Again It’s Christmas” album, which featured fellow country stars Alison Krauss and Jennifer Nettles, among others.

Relishing an unlikely renaissance late in his career, Rogers played to younger generations when he appeared at rock-centric music festivals such as Bonnaroo (2012) and Glastonbury (2013) — and to rave reviews , much to his surprise.

“I’m firmly convinced that at this point in my career, my audience falls into one of two categories: either people born since the ’80s whose parents forced them to listen to my music as [a form of] child abuse, or people who were born before the ’60s and can no longer remember the ’60s,” he told the Boston Globe in 2013.

Rogers is survived by his wife Wanda and five children, Kenny Jr., Christopher, Justin, Jordan and Carole.

Times staff writers James Reed and Steve Marble contributed to this report.

kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

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Kenny Rogers performing in 1990.

Kenny Rogers obituary

Kenny Rogers, who has died aged 81, was a prolific hit-maker from the late 1960s into the 80s, and with songs such as Lucille, The Gambler and Coward of the County helped to create a bestselling crossover of pop and country material. “I did songs that were not country but were more pop,” he said in 2016. “If the country audience doesn’t buy it, they’ll kick it out. And if they do, then it becomes country music.”

Rogers’s knack for finding a popular song – he was modest about his own writing skills and preferred to pick songs from other writers – was unerring, bringing him huge hits with Don Schlitz ’s The Gambler (1978), Lionel Richie’s Lady (1980) , and, with Dolly Parton, the Bee Gees’ Islands in the Stream (1983) among many others. Though his record sales waned in the late 80s, he bounced back in his last years with three successful albums, The Love of God (2011), You Can’t Make Old Friends (2013) and Once Again It’s Christmas (2015). Altogether he recorded 65 albums and sold more than 165m records.

Born in Houston, Texas , Kenny was the fourth of eight children of Lucille (nee Hester), a nursing assistant, and Edward Rogers, a carpenter, and grew up in the San Felipe Courts housing project. He attended Jefferson Davis high school, where he formed his first band, a doo-wop group called the Scholars, in which he sang and played guitar.

In 1956 he left school and within two years had scored a solo hit with That Crazy Feeling , which earned him an appearance on the TV show American Bandstand. He then played bass in the jazz trio the Bobby Doyle Three before moving to Los Angeles and joining the folk group the New Christy Minstrels .

In 1967 Rogers formed the First Edition (which also included New Christy Minstrels songwriter Mike Settle), and they proceeded to notch up seven Top 40 pop hits, including Mickey Newbury’s Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In (1967, and later used for a memorable dream sequence in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski). Their most prominent hit was their version of Mel Tillis’s Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town , written from the viewpoint of a paralysed Vietnam veteran. Featuring the pained, sandpapery vocal delivery that would become Rogers’s trademark, in 1969 it reached No 2 in the UK and 6 on the Billboard pop chart.

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton had huge success with their duet Islands in the Stream in 1983.

The First Edition also made a couple of movie appearances, and in 1971 began hosting their own TV show, Rollin’ on the River. B ut by 1975 the group were in commercial decline, prompting Rogers to start a solo career with the United Artists label.

In 1977 he topped the US country chart for the first time with Lucille (also a No 1 hit in the UK and several other countries), another storytelling song, which sold 5m copies worldwide. It paved the way for further Rogers classics including The Gambler (1978, another Country No 1 and a US Top 20 pop hit) and Coward of the County (1979, a UK and Country No 1, and a No 3 on the US pop chart).

Rogers’s yearning vocal tone also made him a natural ballad singer, as he demonstrated with the chart-topping Lady. Another of his talents was picking the right duet partners. He teamed up with Dottie West on a string of big country hits in the late 70s and early 80s, including three No 1s, and reached the US Top 5 with Kim Carnes on Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer (1980). That track came from a chart-topping concept album that Carnes and her husband, Dave Ellingson, wrote for Rogers, called Gideon, the story of cowboy Gideon Tanner.

Kenny Rogers and Jane Seymour in the TV show Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman in 1993.

His collaboration with Sheena Easton on We’ve Got Tonight (1983) was a Country No 1 and reached No 6 on the pop chart. In the same year he achieved one of his best-loved career highlights by duetting with Parton on Islands in The Stream, an international smash. “Everybody always thought we were having an affair,” Rogers said of his great friend Parton. “We didn’t. We just teased each other and flirted with each other for 30 years.”

In 1985 he was one of the featured superstars on USA for Africa’s We Are the World . His album The Heart of the Matter of the same year, produced by George Martin , was his last to top the US Country chart, and the following year he was voted favourite singer of all time by USA Today and People magazine. He won a Grammy award for Make No Mistake, She’s Mine (1987) , a duet with Ronnie Milsap that was his penultimate Country No 1 single.

But Rogers had several strings to his bow. His hit The Gambler had spawned a string of TV films in which he played the title role of Brady Hawkes . In 1991, with former Kentucky Fried Chicken chief executive John Y Brown Jr, he launched a string of chicken restaurants called Kenny Rogers Roasters. Having starred as a racing car driver in the movie Six Pack (1982), Rogers collaborated with Sprint car driver CK Spurlock to create the car manufacturer Gambler Chassis.

Kenny Rogers with his 1957 convertible Chevrolet in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, in 1990.

A keen amateur photographer, Rogers was spurred to develop his skills further when he married his fourth wife, Marianne Gordon, a model. As well as taking portraits of her, Rogers studied with the photographers John Sexton and Yousuf Karsh . In 1986 he published Kenny Rogers’ America, featuring images taken while on tour, while Your Friends and Mine (1987) comprised portraits of superstars including Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson. Country music stars including Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette and Parton were the subjects of This Is My Country (2005).

He was also an author. The book of his touring musical play The Toy Shoppe was published in 2000, his memoir, Luck Or Something Like It, appeared in 2012, and the following year brought his novel (co-written with Mike Blakely), What Are the Chances.

Among his countless honours were three Grammys, six Country Music Association awards and eight Academy of Country Music awards, and in 2013 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Having delivered a rousing performance in the Sunday afternoon “Legends” slot at the Glastonbury festival in 2013, Rogers embarked on his farewell tour, The Gambler’s Last Deal , in 2016. On 25 October 2017, he was given an all-star send-off at Nashville’s Bridgestone arena by guests including Richie, Parton, Don Henley, Kris Kristofferson and Reba McEntire.

Kenny was wed five times. The first four marriages, to Janice (nee Gordon), Jean Rogers, Margo (nee Anderson), and Marianne, ended in divorce. He is survived by his fifth wife, Wanda (nee Miller), their twin sons, Justin and Jordan, a daughter, Carole, from his marriage to Janice, a son, Kenny Jr, from his marriage to Margo, and another son, Christopher, from his marriage to Marianne.

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Legendary country star Kenny Rogers has died at 81

Rogers’s career spanned six decades. He sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

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kenny rogers farewell tour 2020

Legendary country star Kenny Rogers died on Friday night, CNN reports . He was 81 years old.

In a statement posted to Rogers’s verified Twitter account , the Rogers family said, “Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family.” The news comes two years after Rogers announced that he would be ending his planned farewell tour early , in 2018, due to “a series of health challenges.”

Rogers’s career spanned more than six decades. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 , with the organization citing his “distinctive, husky voice and laid-back sex appeal,” which he parlayed “into durable superstardom.” He was a three-time Grammy winner, and he had 120 hit singles and sold over 100 million albums worldwide . In 2018, his 1978 smash hit “ The Gambler ” was added to the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress, which archives songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Rogers was, in other words, an American institution.

Rogers began recording in the 1950s, first as a background member of various jazz and folk ensembles and then, in the 1960s, as a member of the folk-rock-country band First Edition. The group briefly went pop after the success of its 1967 psychedelic rock song “ Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In) ,” but as Rogers became more of a leader within the band, he guided them back toward a country sound. When the band split up in 1974, he embarked on a solo career as a country artist.

Country-pop was having a moment in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and Rogers was in the right place at the right time. In 1977, he had his first solo hit, “ Lucille ,” which won a Grammy and made Billboard’s pop and country charts. And over the next decade, Rogers would repeat that commercial success, releasing major country hits that also ruled the pop charts. He collaborated with Lionel Ritchie for 1980’s crossover hit “ Lady ,” and with Dolly Parton for 1983’s “Islands in the Stream .” When “The Gambler” became a hit in 1978, he built the cred into a series of successful made-for-TV movies .

As Rogers’s star faded through the 1990s and into the 2000s, he pivoted his career to publish books of photography and books for children and to open a chain of restaurants. He also continued to tour, and in 2015, he announced his plans to retire after a long farewell tour.

“I’ve been so lucky to have enjoyed such a long career and to have such amazing support from my fans and all who have helped me along the way, but there comes a time when I need to focus on spending time with my family,” Rogers said at the time . “My life is about my wife and my 11-year-old twin boys right now. There are a lot of things I want to do together with them to create some special memories. I don’t have a bucket list of my own … I have a bucket list of things I want to do with them.”

Dolly Parton posted a tearful video to social media on Saturday in tribute to Rogers. “I loved Kenny with all my heart,” she said. “My heart’s broken, and a big old chunk of it has gone with him today. And I think that I can speak for his family, for all his friends and fans, when I say that I will always love you.”

You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend. pic.twitter.com/hIQLIvt8pr — Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) March 21, 2020

A statement from Rogers’s publicist says that out of concern regarding the national Covid-19 emergency, the family is planning a small private service. They look forward to celebrating Rogers’s life publicly with his friends and fans at a later date.

Update: This article has been updated to include Dolly Parton’s tribute to Rogers.

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