Kenny Rogers, the Grammy award-winning country music icon, has died aged 81.
Rogers “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” according to a statement by representative Keith Hagan.
The statement posted on Saturday said he died at home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, from natural causes. “Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music,” it said. “His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world.”
Rogers’ family is planning a private service out of concern for the national coronavirus emergency. A public memorial to celebrate his life will be held at a later date.
Rogers topped the charts during the 1970s and 1980s, and won three Grammy awards. He was best known for his hit song The Gambler, released in 1978.
He went on to star in TV movies based on The Gambler and other songs. Rogers worked for some 60 years before retiring from touring in 2017 aged 79. Despite his crossover success, he always preferred to be thought of as a country singer.
The Country Music Association said Rogers had “forever left a mark on country music’s history”.
Country Music has lost the great Kenny Rogers, who has forever left a mark on Country Music's history. His family and friends are in our thoughts during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/tKPXUXU2kp
— CMA Country Music (@CountryMusic) March 21, 2020
Rogers was raised in public housing in Houston Heights with seven siblings. As a 20-year-old, he had a gold single called That Crazy Feeling, under the name Kenneth Rogers, but when that early success stalled, he joined a jazz group, the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a standup bass player.
But his breakthrough came when he was asked to join the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group, in 1966. The band reformed as First Edition and scored a pop hit with the psychedelic song, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).
Rogers and First Edition mixed country-rock and folk on songs like Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town, a story of a Vietnam veteran begging his girlfriend to stay.
After the group broke up in 1974, Rogers started his solo career and found a big hit with the country ballad Lucille, in 1977, which crossed over to the pop charts and earned Rogers his first Grammy.
Rogers invested his time and money in a variety of endeavours over the course of his career, including a passion for photography that led to several books, as well as an autobiography, Making It With Music. He had a chain of restaurants called Kenny Rogers Roasters, and was a partner behind a riverboat in Branson, Missouri.
In 2007 The Gambler became the unofficial anthem of the England World Cup rugby team, catapulting Rogers back into the spotlight.
He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 – the same year he played at Glastonbury and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association.