Country Music Hall of Fame legend Kenny Rogers has passed away at the age of 81.
Vocalist Kenny Rogers, who dominated the pop and country charts in the 1970s and 1980s with a string of sleekly tailored hits and won three Grammys, has died. He was 81. Rogers “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” a representative for the singer said in a statement. Due to the national COVID-19 emergency, the family is planning a small private service at this time with a public memorial planned for a later date.
Rogers was one of the progenitors of country-pop crossover at the superstar level. “I came into country music not trying to change country music but trying to survive,” he said in a 2016 interview with CMT.com. “And so I did songs that were not country but were more pop. Nowadays they’re not doing country songs at all. What they’re doing is creating their own genre of country music. But I told somebody the other day, country music is what country people will buy. If the country audience doesn’t buy it, they’ll kick it out. And if they do, then it becomes country music. It’s just era of country music we’re in.”
When Country Universe counted down the 100 Greatest Men of Country Music, Kenny Rogers placed at #17:
The biggest crossover star that country music has ever known, Kenny Rogers was among the biggest stars of any genre in the seventies and eighties, becoming a worldwide icon and one of the genre’s finest ambassadors…
By the end of the seventies, Rogers was a full-blown superstar, selling millions of records on the strength of international crossover hits like “The Gambler” and “Coward of the County.” In 1980, his greatest hits collection topped the pop albums chart and sold more than 12 million copies, shattering all previous records for Nashville-based acts. His Lionel Richie-penned hit “Lady” spent a stunning six weeks atop the pop singles chart. It was an appropriate title for a Rogers hit, who managed to have country and pop hits with ladies as diverse as Dottie West, Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton, and Kim Carnes. His duet with Parton on “Islands in the Stream” topped both the country and pop charts and sold more than two million copies in the United States alone.
As pop tastes changed, Rogers remained a force on the country charts, but further diversified his portfolio with a string of popular television movies based on his hit, “The Gambler.” He further collaborated with Parton on a tour and a Christmas album, that latter of which was supported by a Holiday-themed television movie.
In the nineties, he was one of many stars who were pushed off of the radio for younger acts, but refused to complain about the ageism at work. He noted, “Those who can compete, compete. Those who can’t, b***h.” Proving his own case in 1999, he had a comeback album with She Rides Wild Horses, scoring his first #1 country hit in over a decade with “Buy Me a Rose”, which powered that set to platinum sales.
I’m sure I speak for many of us in the Country Universe community when I say that Kenny Rogers was a constant presence growing up, one of those icons that transcended format and everybody knew by name. He will be missed.