Jake’s Take Pays Tribute to Kenny Rogers (1938 to 2020)

Kenny Rogers' final tour
Country music legend Kenny Rogers passed away on March 20, 2020. (Photo by Piper Ferguson & courtesy of Webster Public Relations)

It is great sadness that I have to report the death of one of country music’s most prominent recording artists: Kenny Rogers.

Countless media outlets such as CNN, FOX News, and Variety reported that a representative from the “We’ve Got Tonight” singer-songwriter’s family stated that Kenny Rogers passed away from natural causes on March 20, 2020, at 81-years-old.

Kenny Rogers’ Early Years

Kenny Rogers was born on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas, to Lucille Lois and Edward Floyd Rogers. Eventually, Kenny gravitated to music. In 1963, he joined the Bobby Doyle Three with the aforementioned Bobby Doyle and Ken Russell. The group recorded singles for Columbia Records and Warner Bros. Records. After the group broke up in 1965, Kenny Rogers joined another musical group: The New Christy Minstrels.

While he served as a singer and a double bass player, he was not satisfied with what the folk group offered him. Eventually, he left the band along with former Minstrels members Mike Settle, Terry Williams, and Thelma Camacho to form First Edition in 1967. The group was able to land songs on both the country and pop music charts including “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” “But You Know I Love You,” “Reuben James,” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”

Solo Career And Collaborations 

Once Kenny left the First Edition in 1976, he set off to reignite his solo career. It was probably one of the best decisions in his career. While his first solo effort, Love Lifted Me, peaked only at number 28 on Billboard’s Top U.S. Country albums, eight of his albums peaked number one television films that starred Kenny Rogers as Brady Hawkes.  

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” remains one of the greatest duets of all-time. (Video property of CMT)

Kenny Rogers’ career also featured a plethora of collaborations. Many music fans treasure his team-ups with fellow country music icon Dolly Parton, which started in 1983’s “Islands in the Stream.” The Bee Gees-penned hit peaked number one on four U.S. music charts and broke into the Top 10 on eleven international music charts. The duo recorded a Christmas album together and three additional duets: 1985’s “Real Love,” 1990’s “Love is Strange,” and 2013’s “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”

President Clinton, Michael Jackson and Diana Ross We Are The World
Kenny Rogers (on the right) sang “We Are The World” with former President Clinton, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross. (Photo by the AFP)

He also recorded with Kim Carnes (“Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer”), Sheena Easton (“We’ve Got Tonight”), Gladys Knight (“If I Knew Then What I Know Now”), Lionel Richie (“Lady”), and Don Henley (“Calling Me”). Also, Kenny Rogers participated in the original recording of “We Are the World.” He performed the song live with Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Quincy Jones, James Ingram, and Ray Charles at both President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration and Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2001

Awards & Honors

Throughout his celebrated career, Kenny Rogers amassed a plethora of honors. He won three Grammy Awards and 13 American Music Awards. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association Awards that same year. Finally, the National Music Council of the United States awarded him the American Eagle Award in 2010 for distinguished service to American Music.

Early on in my career, I had the opportunity to interview Kenny Rogers for his final tour: The Gambler’s Last Deal. It was a thrill to talk to the music legend about his farewell concert series and learn his take about the modern music industry. Jake’s Take is sending its condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, and millions of fans around the world. Thank you for the music and memories, Mr. Rogers.

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Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar