Legendary country singer, gambler and outlaw Kenny Rogers has passed away at the age of 81, closing the book on one of American music’s most iconic careers. The passing of Rogers was announced by the artist’s family via his official Twitter account, saying he died Friday night of natural causes, surrounded by family in hospice care. Rogers’ career as a prolific entertainer had spanned for almost six decades.
“Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music. His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world,” said a statement by publicist Keith Hagan.
In the course of his career, Rogers had earned just about every accolade it’s possible to earn in the American country music scene, being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame back in 2013. He had officially retired in 2015 in order to spend more time with family, saying at the time: “I’ve been so lucky to have enjoyed such a long career and to have such amazing support from my fans and all who have helped me along the way, but there comes a time when I need to focus on spending time with my family.”
Rogers produced no fewer than 24 songs that ultimately hit #1 on the charts, including unforgettable hits like “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Lucille,” “We’ve Got Tonight,” “Through the Years” and “Islands in The Stream.” His songs were awarded with three Grammy Awards and six Country Music Awards, ultimately selling more than 50 million albums in the U.S. alone. He was inarguably one of the biggest country stars in the history of the genre, with a fame that transcended into acting and TV appearances as well. He even opened a chain of chicken restaurants, Kenny Rogers Roasters, which made a memorable appearance on an episode of Seinfeld.
“Country Music has lost the great Kenny Rogers, who has forever left a mark on Country Music’s history,” sad the Country Music Association in a statement. “His family and friends are in our thoughts during this difficult time.”
Rogers was also known for his humanitarian and charity work, especially in his famous participation in the 1985 recording of “We Are the World,” and his subsequent co-chairing of the “Hands Across America” campaign to raise awareness of hunger and homelessness in the U.S.A.
He will be missed by anyone who has ever called themselves a fan of country music.
Listen to Kenny Rogers perform at the Ryman in 1996: