Official Statement On the Passing of Country Music Hall of Fame Member Kenny Rogers
Style Magazine Newswire | 3/23/2020, 2:26 p.m.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - March 21, 2020 - Country Music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers passed away Friday, March 20, 2020. He was 81. Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
"Kenny Rogers is, of course, one of music's most successful and enduring artists," said Kyle Young, CEO, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "His uncanny song sense and impeccable singing resonated across the genre lines that he took delight in ignoring. The antithesis of a gambler, he thought deeply and acted deliberately with every career decision, and those decisions brought to light the songwriting talents of Hal Bynum, Mickey Newbury, Don Schlitz, and many more. Though he was by any definition a superstar, he lived a life of service to songs, writers, and, above all, listeners."
Kenneth Donald 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. His doo-wop recording “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 #5 pop 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 stunning success of the mournfully catchy, Grammy-winning “Lucille” (#1 country, #5 pop) in 1977. For the next dozen years Rogers logged hit after hit, including “The Gambler” (1978-79)—penned by Country Music Hall of Fame Member Don Schlitz—”She Believes in Me” (1979), and “Coward of the County” (1979-80). In 1980, on Liberty Records, Rogers’s #1 country hit “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” (1978), with Country Music Hall of Fame member Dottie West, and the crossover smash “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” (1980), with Kim Carnes. As the country-pop era reached a peak, Rogers piled up three Grammys, five CMA awards and eight ACM awards, adding to his stature as one of country’s first artists to sell out arena shows.
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 the memorable Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream” (1983), all country #1s 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 “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” a Grammy-winning duet with fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Ronnie Milsap released in 1987, were Rogers’ last #1 country records until “Buy Me a Rose” (1999-2000), recorded with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean.
He continued to tour and to release hits collections and albums of new material, the latter including Water & Bridges (Capitol Nashville, 2006), which yielded the Top Twenty hit “I Can’t Unlove You.”
In 2015, Rogers announced his plans to retire from the road following an extensive farewell tour.
Outside of his musical career, Rogers published several well-received photography books, authored two children’s books, engaged in major philanthropic endeavors and launched a chain of restaurants.