Across social media, friends and fans mourned country music legend Kenny Rogers.
Rogers, the smooth, Grammy-winning balladeer who spanned jazz, folk, country and pop with such hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on record and on TV died Friday night. He was 81.
The Rogers family announced his death on Twitter. They said he died “peacefully” under hospice care in his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia.
Early Saturday celebrities reacted to the news.
Dolly Parton shared a video tribute on Twitter to her “singing partner.”
“I know that we all know that Kenny is in a better place than we are today and I’m pretty sure that he’s going to be talking to God sometime today… and he’s going to be asking him to spread some light on a bunch of this darkness,” Parton said in her video. “I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart’s broken. A big ol’ chunk of it has gone with him today.”
Parton then got emotional as she held up a photo of her and Rogers.
“God bless you Kenny, fly high straight into the arms of God,” Parton said. “To the rest of you, keep the faith.”
Blake Shelton remembered Rogers as always being a “kind and fun” person.
“I can’t express on Twitter the impact Kenny Rogers the artist and the man had on me. He was always very kind and fun to be around. Rest In Peace Gambler…,” the “Austin” artist wrote.
Piers Morgan shared a photo of the Houston-born performer, to express his sadness. “RIP Kenny Rogers, 81. What incredibly sad news. One of the all-time great country music stars & an utterly charming man,” Morgan wrote.
Stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt shared his favorite memory of Rogers on Twitter.
“I was on an episode of ‘Reno 911!’ where I played a crazed stalker who shoots Kenny Rogers,” Oswalt wrote. “The cast loved him, he told great stories, and was a joy to be around. And “The Gambler” is a truly great song. #RIPKennyRogers.”
Larry the Cable Guy took to Twitter to thank Rogers for his contributions to the music world. “Oh man Kenny Rogers just died,” he wrote. “RIP Gambler. Thanks for all the great music.”
Charlie Daniels also recognized the Rogers’ music as classics that will continue to make an impact in the world.
“Thank you Kenny Rogers for being a part of our lives for so long. Your songs are woven into the fabric of our memories, classics, that will live on in the musical heart of a world that will miss you so much. Rest in peace Gambler,” Daniels tweeted.
Others simply tweeted lyrics to Rogers’ hits including “Islands In The Stream” which he sang with Dolly Parton.
The Houston-born performer with the husky voice and silver beard sold tens of millions of records, won three Grammys and was the star of TV movies based on “The Gambler” and other songs, making him a superstar in the ‘70s and ’80s. Rogers thrived for some 60 years before retired from touring in 2017 at age 79. Despite his crossover success, he always preferred to be thought of as a country singer.
Morgan Hines, USA TODAY
USA TODAY Entertainment
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Kenneth Ray Rogers (August 21, 1938 – March 20, 2020) was an American singer, songwriter, actor, record producer, and entrepreneur. He was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Though he was most successful with country audiences, Rogers charted more than 120 hit singles across various music genres, topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone, and sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
In the late 1950s, he started his recording career with jazz-singer Bobby Doyle, and joined the folk ensemble the New Christy Minstrels in 1961, playing double bass and bass guitar as well as singing. In 1967, he and several members of the New Christy Minstrels left to found the group the First Edition, with whom he scored his first major hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, a psychedelic rock song which peaked at number five on the Billboard charts. As Rogers took an increased leadership role in the First Edition, and following the success of 1969’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”, the band gradually changed styles to a more country feel. The band broke up in 1975–1976, and Kenny Rogers embarked on a long and successful solo career, which included several successful collaborations, including duets with singers Dolly Parton and Sheena Easton, and a songwriting partnership with Lionel Richie. His signature song, 1978’s “The Gambler”, was a cross-over hit that won him a Grammy Award in 1980 and was selected in 2018 for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. He would develop the Gambler persona into a character for a successful series of television films starting with 1980’s Emmy-nominated Kenny Rogers as The Gambler.
Two of his albums, The Gambler and Kenny, were featured in the About.com poll of “The 200 Most Influential Country Albums Ever”. He was voted the “Favorite Singer of All Time” in a 1986 joint poll by readers of both USA Today and People. He has received numerous awards such as the AMAs, Grammys, ACMs and CMAs, as well as a lifetime achievement award for a career spanning six decades in 2003. Later success included the 2006 album release, Water & Bridges, an across the board hit, that hit the Top 5 in the Billboard Country Albums sales charts, also charting in the Top 15 of the Billboard 200. The first single from the album, “I Can’t Unlove You”, was also a sizable chart hit. Remaining a popular entertainer around the world, he continued to tour regularly until his retirement in 2017.
He acted in a variety of movies and television shows, most notably the title roles in Kenny Rogers as The Gambler and the MacShayne series for The NBC Mystery Movie, and the 1982 feature film Six Pack. He was a co-founder of the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters in collaboration with former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown Jr.. Although the stores closed in the United States, they are still a fixture in Asia.
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