Kenny Rogers, a prolific country and pop music hit maker has passed away at 81 on Friday March 20, 2020.
He grew up in a very poor family and lived in the projects of Houston. He was the first member of his family to graduate from High School. While in High School, he joined a doo-wop group called “The Scholars”. At age 19, he recorded “That Crazy Feeling” for a local Houston record label.
In the late fifties, his recording career started with jazz singer Buddy Doyle. After that he became a member of “The New Christy Minstrels” some of whose members including Kenny Rogers formed the new band, “The First Edition”. Their first hits were the psychedelic rock song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” which made it to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the soft rock “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” which made it to #6. The group had four more major hits as “Kenny Rogers and The First edition” and had a TV Show from 1971-1973 which ended up being quite a burden for the group which disbanded by 1976.
In 1977, he had his first big solo hit, “Lucille”, a pop and country hit. In fact almost all of his songs from this point forward with both pop and country hits. He collaborated with singers Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton and Dolly Parton and for significant hits and for songwriting, with Lionel Richie.
His most successful song, “The Gambler” was made into an NBC TV movie in which he acted. That movie was nominated for an Emmy. The song also won him on of several Grammy Awards. Notably, “The Gambler” was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2018.
His 2006 album, “Water & Bridges” was a charted at #5 on the Billboard Country Album chart and at #15 on the the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. The song “I Can’t Unlove You” was his last major hit. He retired from performing in 2017.
Mr. Rogers also wrote several books on photography, opened a restaurant franchise which continues in Asia, and bred Arabian horses on his 1,200 acre farm in Georgia.
Jon Hall – WREN Radio