Kenny Rogers, Superstar of Country Music, Dies at 81


Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Kenny Rogers

The Houston-born performer won three Grammys and was the star of telefilms based on “The Gambler.”

Kenny Rogers, the superstar country singer and occasional actor who had hits with “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and knew when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em as The Gambler, died Friday night. He was 81.

A three-time Grammy winner, Rogers died of natural causes at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, representative Keith Hagan told the Associated Press.

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, Rogers sold more than 120 million records worldwide, racking up 17 No. 1 Hot Country Songs on the Billboard charts and another 10 among the top 10. With his sweet, husky voice and easygoing demeanor, he was hugely popular.

“He wasn’t one of the bad boys — he was no Johnny Cash, the Man in Black who sang of shooting a man in Reno ‘just to watch him die,'” Virginia Parker wrote of Rogers in a 2007 profile for Atlanta Magazine. “He was no ‘don’t boss him, don’t cross him’ Red Headed Stranger like Willie Nelson, who sang he ‘shot her so quick there was no time to warn her.’ He didn’t do hard time in the slammer like Merle Haggard. Rogers was the man who begged his woman not to leave, the sensitive guy who promised eternal fidelity, the loser out of aces. And he was catnip to the ladies.”

Rogers broke through in 1967 as the frontman for The First Edition, an eclectic band that played a range from rock and R&B to folk and country. The group, which included Mickey Jones and Terry Williams, scored its first hit in 1968 with the psychedelic “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” The song attracted a new legion of fans when it was used in 1998’s The Big Lebowski.

Rogers’ appeal prompted the band’s name change to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Under its new moniker, it took the single “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” to the Billboard Top 10. The group generated 14 albums before disbanding in 1974.



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