Kenny Rogers Dies At 81

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Country music star Kenny Rogers, best known for hits like “Lucille” and “Lady,” died Friday night in Georgia at 81.

According to a rep for the singer, Rogers died “peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family.”

"I loved Kenny with all my heart and my heart's broken," a tearful Dolly Parton shared in a video message early Saturday. "A big ol' chunk of it has gone with him today." She also tweeted: "You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend."

Fellow country star Travis Tritt remembered Rogers as "a friend who helped me in so many ways early on. He was always funny, kind and full of advice. Kenny’s legacy of great music will live on forever."

Charlie Daniels tweeted: "Thank you Kenny Rogers for being a part of our lives for so long. Your songs are woven into the fabric of our memories, classics, that will live on in the musical heart of a world that will miss you so much." In a tweet, Jake Owen shared: "It’s not about #1s. It’s about the legacy you leave behind and he was a great man. He changed Country Music and had a voice like no other. Thank you Kenny. Thank you."

Many outside the country music community also paid tribute on social media, including LaToya Jackson, who said Rogers was "a family favourite." Actor William Baldwin described him as an icon, legend and treasure. "Thank you #KennyRogers for your incredible gift to unite us through your amazing music," he tweeted.

Born in Texas, Rogers had his first music success in 1957 with a song called “That Crazy Feeling.” He went on to be part of several groups – Bobby Doyle Three, New Christy Minstrels and First Edition – he signed a solo record deal in the late ‘70s.

In the decades that followed, Rogers had hits like “The Gambler,” “She Believes In Me,” “Lucille,” "Coward of the County" and the Lionel Richie-penned “Lady.”

He also topped the chart with his 1983 duet with Parton, “Islands in the Stream,” which was written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees for Marvin Gaye.

In 2017, Rogers recalled he was not a fan of the song until Parton added her voice to it. He told People that after that after “singing it for four days,” he wasn’t sold. “I finally said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like this song anymore’ and he said, ‘You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton.’”

Rogers said his manager mentioned having just seen Parton in the same recording studio building. “I said, ‘Well, go get her!’ He went downstairs and she came marching into the room, and once she came in and started singing the song was never the same,” he said. “It took on a personality of its own.”

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, Rogers collected Grammys, American Music Awards and CMA Awards.

He performed live for the last time on Oct. 25, 2017 in Nashville.

Last May, the country star was hospitalized, reportedly due to "dehydration." A statement at the time from his reps referred to “recent wild misinformation and speculation” about Rogers' health after the National Enquirer reported that he was “staring death in the eye” and cited unnamed sources as saying he is “bravely preparing for the end just a year after bladder cancer forced him to retire.”

The statement read: “He appreciates the concern and well wishes he has received from his fans and can assure everyone he plans on sticking around through the years to come.”

The singer had a handful of roles on TV series like Touched by an Angel and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and starred in several TV movies, including five based on “The Gambler.” On the big screen, he starred in the 1982 racing comedy Six Pack.

At the time of his death, Rogers was married to his fifth wife, Wanda Miller, with whom he has twin sons. He has three children from three previous marriages.

To respect restrictions on large gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis, the family plans to hold a small private ceremony but will organize a public memorial at a later date.

This article has been updated since it was published.

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