On this day in 2020, the music world lost a legend.
Kenny Rogers passed away three years ago at age 81 in Sandy Springs, Georgia while surrounded by his family. He had been battling numerous health conditions, including a cancer diagnosis, for many years.
The Houston, Texas native had such a rich and successful career that words truly fail to encompass it.
He began his music journey in the late 1950’s with a group called The Scholars. He put out a handful of solo singles over the next few years, but joined the the New Christy Minstrels in 1966, where he first saw some success. What started as a psychedelic rock band slowly began moving toward the County genre as Kenny took on a leadership position and they secured a hit with “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”.
The band broke up in 1975, which lead Kenny to launch a full pursuit of a solo career and to say it worked would be the understatement of the century.
He went on to sell over 100 million copies of his 39 studio albums, racked up 21 County Number one singles, 2 Hot 100 number ones (Including his iconic duet with Dolly Parton on “Islands In The Stream”), won 3 Grammy’s, 7 ACM’s, 5 CMA’s, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
But the numbers hardly tell his whole story.
Kenny was a rare crossover success that pretty much everyone loved, traditionalists and pop lovers alike. He is one of the best selling artists of all-time and was even voted the “Favorite Singer of All Time” by readers of USA Today and People in 1986.
But of course, Kenny Rogers will always be tied to one song in particular.
“The Gambler” was the title track for his 1978 album and was one of a string of 5 consecutive Number One’s.
But it may surprise you to learn that Kenny didn’t write the song and wasn’t even the first artist to record it. It was written by Don Schlitz and originally released by Bobby Bare. The song then bounced around between quite a few artists, including Johnny Cash who also released a version in 1978, but none of them took until Kenny Rogers made it his own and the rest, they say, is history.
Rest in Peace to the great Kenny Rogers.
I know you’re up there singing with that silky smooth baritone, and I think it’s about time we all join in.