Kenny Rogers, Country Icon, Dead at 81

Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers, country music icon and three-time Grammy Award winner, has died at the age of 81.

The singer “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” Rogers’ representative said in a statement. Due to the national coronavirus pandemic, the family is planning a small private service. A larger-scale public memorial will be planned at a later date.

Rogers’ career spanned more than six decades and held 24 number one hits including “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Islands In The Stream,” “Lucille,” “She Believes In Me,” and “Through the Years.” He was a forefather of country-pop crossovers, and had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. In addition to his Grammys, he was awarded six CMA Awards. In 2018, his song, “The Gambler,” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

“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… 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.”

Rogers’ farewell tour ran through early 2018 until he called off the remaining dates in April of that year due to unspecified “health challenges.” “I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” Rogers said in a statement. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years on ‘The Gambler’s Last Deal’ tour. I could never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career and the happiness I’ve experienced as a result of that.”

Rogers appeared in TV series like Touched By An Angel, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and served as a narrator for an episode of How I Met Your Mother. His list of TV-movies includes Christmas in America and Wild Horses.

CMT will pay tribute with CMT Remembers Kenny Rogers, a 30-minute special hosted by Katie Cook premiering Saturday, March 21 at 9 pm. The special follows Rogers’ rise to fame, featuring intimate first-hand interviews, anecdotes from country legends and live concert footage. Encore airings are scheduled for March 22 at 11:30 am, March 23 at 8 pm and March 24 at 8:30 am. All times are eastern and pacific.

Another special, Biography: Kenny Rogers, will air on A&E April 13.