Country Music Hall of Fame Singer Kenny Rogers Dies at 81
Kenny Rogers had been vocal about his ailing health in recent years
Kenny Rogers has died. He was 81.
“The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25 p.m. at the age of 81. Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” the singer’s family said in a statement released on his social media early Saturday.
“The family is planning a small private service at this time out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency. They look forward to celebrating Kenny’s life publicly with his friends and fans at a later date,” the statement said.
Over his illustrious five decades-long career, Rogers sold more than 100 million records and won three Grammys, 18 American Music Awards, and a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame. His biggest hits included his signature song “The Gambler,” “Lucille,” “Ruby,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream”—his beloved duet with Dolly Parton which reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1983.
Rogers, who was born in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 21, 1938, kicked off his music career in 1957 with his first song titled, “That Crazy Feeling” before finding fame with his cross-genre group, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, and band members Mike Settle, Terry Williams, Thelma Camacho and Kin Vassy.
After almost a decade, the band disbanded in 1976 and Rogers started his solo career with his first album Love Lifted Me, which was released that same year.
In addition to his solo music, Rogers amassed a large following well beyond the country-music world thanks to collaborations with artists such as Richie, Lynda Carter and Barry Gibb, as well as 1985’s charity song “We Are the World” with 45 other musicians.
Among Rogers’ 39 studio albums, some well-known ones include The Gambler, Kenny, Eyes That See in the Dark, She Rides Wild Horses and Share Your Love.
In 2000, he made his comeback on the top of the charts for the first time in more than a decade with the single “Buy Me a Rose.” And in 2008, he celebrated his 50th year in the music business with a tour that took him across the U.S. and to the U.K. and Ireland.
In 2013, Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Cowboy Jack Clement and Bobby Bare.
But in 2015, he announced his retirement.
At the time, Rogers told Savannah Guthrie and Carson Daly on the Today show that he was hoping to spend more time with his wife Wanda Miller and five kids.
“I’ve done this long enough. I wrote in my book that sometimes there’s a fine line between being driven and being selfish. And I think I crossed that line when I was younger,” he said. “I really want to be there with my kids and my wife. They’re very important to me and I don’t see enough of them.”
During the same interview, Rogers made references to his ailing health, saying that he was “sure” he would miss touring.
“I swore that I would do this until I embarrassed myself,” he said. “I’m getting to where I don’t walk around well. My mobility is really driving me crazy.”
His final tour was named, The Gambler’s Last Deal. It lasted for two years until he was forced to cancel the last leg due to doctors’ orders.
In an April 2018 statement, his rep told PEOPLE: “Kenny Rogers has been working through a series of health challenges. His doctors fully expect the outcome to be great, but they have advised him to cancel all performances through the end of the year to focus on recuperation.”
Rogers was hospitalized for dehydration last May.
On May 31, 2019, spokespeople for the star said that Rogers was hospitalized but in stable health.
“Due to recent wild misinformation and speculation from several media outlets, we are issuing the following statement on behalf of Kenny Rogers: Kenny was recently admitted to a local Georgia hospital and treated for dehydration,” the statement from his rep read.
“He will remain there to complete some physical therapy to get his strength back prior to discharge. He appreciates the concern and well wishes he has received from his fans and can assure everyone he plans on sticking around through the years to come,” the statement continued.
His final concert took place on Oct. 25, 2017, at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.