Legendary singer Kenny Rogers, who made his mark on pop and country music, has passed away at the age of 81.
In a press release, the Rogers family shared the news, saying that Kenny passed away from natural causes on March 20 at 10:25pm. The “Coward of the County” singer was surrounded by family while under hospice care.
Kenny’s career spanned six decades, beginning in the 1950’s with Jazz singer Bobby Doyle and the folk group The New Christy Mistrels. It wasn’t until 1967 that he founded the group The First Edition, which garnered hits such as “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” After the band broke up in 1976, Kenny took off on his solo career and never looked back.
His chart-topping hits that have reached millions of fans include “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Lucille,” “Through the Years,” “She Believes in Me” and the mega smash “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton. Kenny also recorded hit duets with Sheena Easton (“We’ve Got Tonight”) and Kim Carnes (“Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer”) to name a few. However, it was “The Gambler” that allowed Kenny to to cross over to the pop charts in 1978, earning him his first Grammy.
Kenny also found success in film and television beginning with his first movie, Six Pack, in 1982. He went on to capitalize on “The Gambler” success, starring in The Gambler television film series and Coward of the County, named for another hit song.
Throughout his career, Kenny racked up 24 No. 1 career hits and sold over 100 million records worldwide, earning him AMA awards, ACM Awards, 6 CMA Award wins, three Grammy Awards, The CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award and The CMT Lifetime Achievement Award .
In 2015, the 81-year-old announced his retirement from touring following a final goodbye tour, The Gambler’s Last Deal tour, which ran through 2018 before canceling the remaining dates due to a series of illnesses. His final concert took place in Oct. 2018 during an all-star tribute in Nashville’s Bridgestone arena with friends such as Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Linda Davis, Little Big Town, Travis Tritt, The Judds, Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, Chris Stapleton, Lady Antebellum, Reba McEntire and Crystal Gayle.
“I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” he said in a 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.”
Kenny, who was married five times, is survived by his fifth wife Wanda and his five children— daughter Carole with first wife Janice Gordon, son Kennedy with third wife Margo Anderson, son Christopher Cody from fourth wife Marianne Gordon, and 15-year-old twin boys Justin and Jordan, with wife Wanda.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the family is planning a small private service. According to the release, the family will celebrate Kenny’s life with friends and fans at a later date.