Kenny Rogers - Family, Death & Songs

Hits like “Lucille,” “The Gambler,” and “Islands in the Stream” helped propel multi-award-winning singer-songwriter Kenny Rogers to unprecedented heights of success on both the country and pop music charts.

Who Was Kenny Rogers?

The Gambler was the first album Kenny Rogers released as a solo artist in 1978. Before that, he worked with bands and as a solo artist. The title track was a big success in country music and mainstream music genres, earning Rogers his second Grammy Award. In addition, Rogers collaborated with country music veteran Dottie West to produce a string of smash singles, and he and Dolly Parton co-wrote and performed the number-one hit song “Islands in the Stream.” Rogers has also authored some books, including an autobiography published in 2012.

Early Life and Career

Kenneth Donald Rogers, a well-known singer and songwriter, was born in Houston, Texas, on August 21, 1938. Even though “Kenneth Donald” was listed as his given name on his birth certificate, his family always referred to him as “Kenneth Ray.”


Rogers had a tough upbringing since his parents, and six siblings resided in a public housing complex throughout his childhood. By the time he was a senior in high school, he was already certain he would work in the music industry. After getting himself a guitar, he decided to form a band and call themselves the Scholars. The band played rockabilly music and was successful locally, scoring a few hits.

Rogers became a successful solo artist in 1958 with the release of his smash track “That Crazy Feeling,” which was released on the Carlton label. He was even allowed to sing the song on the well-known music program American Bandstand, which Dick Clark hosted. After switching musical styles, Rogers later played bass with the jazz ensemble known as the Bobby Doyle Trio.

In 1966, when Rogers was transitioning to a folk-pop sound, he was invited to join the New Christy Minstrels. After a year, he and a few other band members left to start their band, which became known as the First Edition. The band combined folk, rock, and country elements in their sound, and their psychedelic rendition of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” became an instant smash. The band’s name was changed to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition shortly after that, and they were given their own syndicated music show. They had a couple more songs, including Mel Tillis’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” one of those hits.

Mainstream Success

In 1974, Rogers parted ways with the band to pursue a solo career and decided to concentrate on country music. In 1975, “Love Lifted Me” became his first solo single to chart in the top 20 of the country music charts. Two years later, in 1978, Rogers topped the country music charts with the wistful ballad “Lucille,” which told the story of a man whose wife had abandoned him. Additionally, the song was successful on the pop charts, where it debuted in the top five and earned Rogers his first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Male Artist.

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Rogers quickly followed up on this triumph by releasing The Gambler the following year, in 1978. The title track was another tremendous smash for Rogers in both the country and mainstream music genres, and it earned him his second Grammy. Another well-known ballad of his, “She Believes in Me,” revealed the sensitive side of his personality. The album Kenny (1979) included several successful songs, including “Coward of the County” and “You Decorated My Life.” Around this period, he penned the guidebook for aspiring musicians titled Making It With Music: Kenny Rogers’ Guide to the Music Business (1978).

Duets With Dottie and Dolly

In addition to his accomplishments as a solo artist, Rogers collaborated with country music icon Dottie West to produce a string of hit records. With the songs “Every Time Two Fools Collide” (1978), “All I Ever Need Is You” (1979), and “What Are We Doin’ in Love,” the two artists dominated the top of the country music charts (1981). In the same year, 1981, Rogers’ cover of Lionel Richie’s “Lady” was the most popular song in the country and on the pop charts for six weeks.

At this point in his career, Rogers was a bona fide crossover performer. He was a huge hit on the country and pop charts and collaborated with other popular artists like Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton. Rogers branched out into acting and performed in television movies based on his songs, such as the 1980s The Gambler, which spawned multiple sequels, and 1981’s Coward of the County. Both of these films were broadcast on television. In the film Six Pack, a comedy, he played the role of a race car driver on the big screen (1982).

One of the most successful singles of Rogers’ career was a collaboration with Dolly Parton, released in 1983 and titled “Islands in the Stream.” The song, composed by the Bee Gees, topped the charts in both country and pop music genres. The Academy of Country Music recognized Rogers and Parton’s collaborative work with the Single of the Year award.

After this event, Rogers’ career as a country music musician flourished. The song “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” which he recorded with Ronnie Milsap and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Country Vocal Performance, Duet in 1988, is one of his songs from this time.

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Photography and Businesses

In addition to his enthusiasm for music, Rogers also exhibited a strong interest in photography. The collection titled Kenny Rogers’ America was released in 1986 and featured photographs the artist had taken while touring the United States. Later, he gave an interview in People magazine, commenting, “Music is what I am, but photography would come second.” Rogers released another compilation the following year under Your Friends and Mine.

Rogers continued his career as an actor, appearing in television movies such as “Christmas in America” (1990) and “MacShayne: Winner Takes All” (1994). In addition, he started investigating several other business prospects, and in 1991, he established a restaurant franchise known as Kenny Rogers Roasters. Later, in 1998, he parted ways with the business and sold it to Nathan’s Famous, Inc.

During the same year, Rogers established his record label, Dreamcatcher Entertainment. Around the same time, he was the lead performer in his own off-Broadway Christmas production, The Toy Shoppe. Rogers enjoyed a return to the charts with the hit “The Greatest,” which portrayed the story of a boy’s love for baseball. His second album, She Rides Wild Horses, was released in 1999, and he enjoyed a return to the top of the charts. Another successful single from the album was “Buy Me a Rose,” which he performed.

Later Years

In July of 2004, Rogers and his fifth wife, Wanda, became parents to twin boys named Jordan and Justin. This event took place just one month before Rogers turned 66 years old. “People my age who had twins have told me that the experience will make or break them. At this point, I’m considering taking a sabbatical. I would do anything to have their level of energy “Rogers, who had three elder children from his previous marriages, disclosed this information to the publication People. In the same year, he published his first children’s book, Christmas in Canaan. This story was adapted into a television movie years later.

A musical retrospective titled Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years was released in 2009 in honor of his long and successful career. At that point, he had already released dozens of albums and sold more than one hundred million copies across the world.

Rogers’ autobiography, titled Luck or Something Like It, was published in 2012. In 2013, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which acknowledged his significant musical accomplishments over his career. In addition, he was presented with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the Country Music Association Awards held in November. Jennifer Nettles and Darius Rucker are just two of the many talented country music artists who came out to pay their respects to Rogers.

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In the same year, Rogers released the album You Can’t Make Old Friends, and then the following year, he released the holiday collection titled Once Again It’s Christmas. The legendary singer-songwriter began what he had previously stated would be his final tour in December 2015 and continued it into the next year.

Following the cancellation of a concert that was supposed to take place in April 2018 at Harrah’s Cherokee Resort Resort in North Carolina, the casino stated on Twitter that the singer was canceling the remaining dates of his farewell tour due to “a series of health difficulties.”

Rogers said, “I’ve greatly appreciated this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the past two years on ‘The Gambler’s Last Deal’ tour.” “The Gambler’s Last Deal” tour was Rogers’ farewell tour. “I could never adequately thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career and the enjoyment I’ve received as a result of that,” she said. “It would take an eternity.”


On March 20, 2020, Rogers passed away due to unavoidable natural causes at his Sandy Springs, Georgia residence. He was 81.

Kenny Rogers: My Life, which chronicled Rogers’ life from his childhood through the rise and fall of The First Edition, the iconic release of “The Gambler,” and the height of his career as a successful solo artist, actor, and pop-culture icon, premiered on A&E on Monday, April 13, at 9/8c. The program chronicled Rogers’ life from his childhood through the rise and fall of The First Edition. This “Biography” special paid tribute to a true country music legend by using live performances and behind-the-scenes moments from Kenny Rogers’ star-studded farewell concert, All In For The Gambler, which took place in Nashville in 2017 and featured many of the country music industry’s biggest names. The two-hour documentary also featured exclusive photos, a never-before-seen interview and acoustic performance by Rogers himself, and intimate interviews with family and fellow luminaries such as Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, Little Big Town, Lady A, Jamey Johnson, and others. The documentary was available on Netflix.

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