Kenny Rogers, an inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, passed away on March 20, 2020 at home in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He was 81.
His family released an official statement late Friday evening. They wrote, “The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25 p.m. at the age of 81. Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family.”
Roger’s family noted in their public statement that they would be holding an intimate funeral for the time being, due to coronavirus. But “they look forward to celebrating Kenny’s life publicly with his friends and fans at a later date.”
Rogers was born on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas. He grew up with seven siblings while living in public housing before becoming one of the most successful country artists of his generation. With a career spanning over six decades, Rogers nabbed over 60 Top 40 hits, such as “The Gambler,” “Lady,” and “Islands in the Stream.” The three-time Grammy Award winner also won the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
His farewell tour, The Gambler’s Last Deal, was in 2015, but he kept performing for years afterward. He survived by his wife Wanda, and his five children.
Here’s what you need to know about Kenny Rogers:
1. Kenny Rogers Was Married to Wife Wanda Miller Rogers for Over 20 Years
Roger first met Wanda while she was in college and working at a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia. She was working the evening hostess shift when the singer came in for dinner for a blind date that didn’t go very well. He called the Pricci Restaurant afterward to leave his number for Wanda. As he told People, “She had the most beautiful smile. I just had to meet her.”
Wanda, who’s 28 years his junior, couldn’t believe it and thought it was a joke and threw his number away. She recalled, “I came in the next day and they all said, ‘Kenny Rogers called asking about you.’ But finally, her co-workers made it clear that they weren’t kidding, and she called Kenny. They married on June 1, 1997, in Athens, Georgia. Together they share twin boys, Jordan and Justin, who were born in 2004.
2. Rogers & Dolly Parton Made For One Of The Most Iconic Country Duos
Written by the Bee Gees, and sung by Rogers and fellow country legend Dolly Parton, “Island in the Stream” was originally released in 1983. The song, which was the first single off of Rogers’ album, Eyes That See in the Dark, soared to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum for selling over two million copies stateside.
The “9 to 5” singer reunited with Rogers in 1985 and they released a Christmas song together entitled “Real Love.” In 2013, the released another duet, “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” The two remained close throughout life. In 2017, Parton joined fellow singers Lionel Richie, Don Henley, Chris Stapleton, Rebe McEntire and more for an all-star tribute to Rogers in Nashville.
Biography: Kenny Rogers, a special which is set to premiere on A&E on April 13, will include footage from the 2017 Nashville show at the Bridgestone Arena.
3. Rogers Wrote A Book About His Life Entitled ‘Luck or Something Like It’
Rogers published a memoir about his life in show business in 2013. In Luck or Something Like It , Rogers opened up about his upbringing in the industry, and his early days playing with the group The First Edition before venturing out for his solo career.
In 2006, The Journey, a documentary compilation of concert footage and behind-the-scenes interviews with Rogers was released. In the film, he discusses his duets with Willie Nelson, Dottie West, Kim Carnes, and more. Throughout his career, with hits like “Lucille,” “She Believes In Me,” and “Through the Years,” he nabbed three Grammys and six CMA Awards, and 2015, was honored with CMT’s Artist of Lifetime Award.
4. Rogers Was Married Four Times Before Tying The Knot With Wanda
Before finding love with Wanda, Rogers was divorced four times over. His first wife was Janice Gordon. They were married for two years and one daughter, Carole, before divorcing in 1960. Rogers’ second marriage was to Jean Rogers from 1960 to 1963.
In 1964, the singer married Margo Anderson, with whom he shared one son, Kenny Jr. The couple divorced in 1976. The fourth time Rogers walked down the aisle, he married actress Marianne Gordon, with whom shares a son, Christopher, who was born in 1982.
5. Roger Starred As A Race Car Driver In The Movie ‘Six Pack’
In addition to being one of the best-selling country music artists of all time, Rogers also found success in film. In 1982, he starred as Brewster Baker in the movie Six Pack, which made over $20 million at the box office.
Rogers also appeared numerous times on the small screen. According to his IMDB, he had guest-starring roles on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Touched by an Angel, How I Met Your Mother and numerous TV movies including The Gambler, which spawned four sequels, Coward of the County, and Christmas in America.
In 1987, Rogers was nominated for Best Original Song for “They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To” alongside Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, which was featured in the movie, Tough Guys. In 2015, the singer starred in the hit Geico commercial inspired by his Grammy Award-winning song, “The Gambler.”