(CelebrityAccess) — Prolific country-pop music legend Kenny Rogers, who scored 21 number one singles, including “The Gambler,” “Lady,” and “Islands in the Stream,” died late Friday at the age of 81.
Rogers’ passing was confirmed by his family on social media.
The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25PM at the age of 81. Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family. https://t.co/adxAgiMW2s pic.twitter.com/nggWiiotMT
— Kenny Rogers (@_KennyRogers) March 21, 2020
Over the course of his long career, Rogers recorded 65 albums and sold over 165 million records, including 21 number one hits on country charts and three top ten hits on the Billboard 200.
A native of Houston, Rogers started his career as a recording artist solidly in the world of 1950s rock, scoring an early minor hit with “That Crazy Feeling” in 1957 and later joining the Bobby Doyle Three, a jazz combo signed to Columbia Records.
However, the group dissolved and Rogers joined the folk ensemble The New Christy Minstrels while also working as a record producer for artists such as Mickey Gilley and Eddy Arnold.
In 1967, Rogers, along with Christy Minstrels members Mike Settle, Terry Williams, and Thelma Camacho, split to form a new group, First Edition, scoring a string of hits on both the country and pop charts.
In 1976, Rogers launched his solo career and a year later, scored his first major hit with “Lucille” which peaked at #1 in 12 countries on the strength of more than 5 million records sold.
Success for Rogers continued throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, racking up multiple #1 country albums, including Share Your Love (1981) Eyes That See in the Dark (1983) and The Heart of the Matter (1985)
In 1988, Rogers won a Grammy Award for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” for “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine” a duet with Ronnie Milsap.
However, as musical tastes changed, Rogers found it increasingly hard to return to the charts in the era of alt-rock and grunge.
Rogers was perhaps best known for his signature “The Gambler.” While the song had been recorded by other artists previously, Rogers 1978 take on “The Gambler” quickly hit #1 on the country charts and became a rare crossover hit to mainstream pop charts and has been selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
Rogers parlayed the success of the song, which tells the story of a down on his luck gambler sharing advice with a young journeyman, into a character for a series of made-for-television films, starting in 1980 with the Emmy-nominated “Kenny Rogers as The Gambler.”
In 2013, Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Cowboy Jack Clement and Bobby Bare. He was also presented with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the CMAs that same year.
Rogers announced his farewell tour The Gambler’s Last Deal in 2015 but was forced to cancel the extended run in 2018 due to health issues.