Kenny Rogers, country music Legend, dies at 81

Kenny Rogers, a longtime star of country music, died Friday night, according to a statement posted by his family.

Rogers who was 81, died peacefully at home in Sandy Springs, of natural causes at 10:25 p.m., the statement said.

Rogers was born fourth of eight children on Aug. 21, 1938 in Houston, Texas. He 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.

Rogers is survived by his fifth wife, Wanda Miller, their twin sons Justin and Jordan, and his three children from previous marriages, Carole, Kennedy, and Christopher. Hagan says Rogers’s family is only planning a small private service right now due to coronavirus concerns, but they plan to organize a larger public memorial to celebrate his life and legacy at a later date

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