- 21 Mar 20
Farewell to The Gambler
Country music superstar Kenny Rogers has passed away at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia. His management have released the following statement: "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."
The statement goes on to read "Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music, and touched the lives of millions around the world." There's no arguing with that, everyone could sing a bar or two of 'The Gambler' or 'Coward Of The County', and there was more besides. Since his first solo number one in 1977 with 'Lucille' - we can all sing that one too - Rogers took home multiple Grammys, ACM and CMA awards and featured on a variety of hit singles like 1983's inescapable world-wide smash duet with Dolly Parton, 'Islands In The Stream'. Written and produced by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees, it showed that Rogers, despite always considering himself first and foremost a country artist, wasn't afraid to step outside the genre if something caught his ear. This proclivity reached its extreme when he collaborated with Coolio on 'The Hustler' in 2003. I know this to be true because I once saw Rogers, in a field in Westmeath, perform a video duet with the 'Gangster's Paradise' hitmaker. I was in a crowd too, so other witnesses can corroborate this strange vision.
Never mind this blip on his record, Roger's Greatest Hits album, released in 1980, has sold more the 24 million copies world wide, which is pretty damn impressive. Rogers scored his first regional hit aged 20 in 1958 with 'That Crazy Feeling' and, after a spell as a bass player, moved to Los Angeles. He joined up with folkers The New Christy Minstrels who, in 1967, morphed into The First Edition and scored big with second single, the none-more-sixties 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)'. You will know it, of course, from gas Coen Brothers movie, The Big Lebowski. This wasn't The 'Edition's only hit either, they also took Mel Tillis' anti-war 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town' into the top ten, and, if you need further evidence of their enduring legacy, rising country star Tyler Childers covered their 'Tulsa Turnaround' in Dublin's Grand Social just a few short months ago.
But it was when Rogers went solo that things really took off. 'Lucille' was number one all over the place in 1977. 'The Gambler' hit the following year, and Rogers - a man who rarely missed a trick - went on to milk it for all it was worth, appearing in five not-great tv movies based around the card-playing character. Perhaps inevitably, there was even a slot machine based on the lyric. The hits kept coming - 'Coward Of The County', 'Lady', 'We've Got Tonight' - a duet with Sheena Easton, a few years before Prince briefly made her cool. And, talking of Prince, the man in purple went on to write 'You're My Love' under the nom de guerre Joey Coco for Rogers. Prince's own version turned up on last year's great Originals record.
Rogers fame was such that he got the call to appear with the rest of American music's upper echelon on 1985's 'We Are The World' charity single and he had a life outside of music too, with his Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant franchise and the publication of several photography books which sprung from Rogers' life-long camera habit. It should be noted also that Rogers put his weight behind various charitable works including the construction of a centre dedicated to children with special needs in Missouri.
2013 was good to Rogers, he played a well-received set at Glastonbury in the traditional old timers slot, around tea-time on the Sunday, and, in the same year, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. He played his last live show in Nashville 2017 and guests included everyone from Kris Kristoffersson to The Flaming Lips. Old pal Dolly Parton also joined in, allowing these two country superstars to belt out 'Islands In The Stream' one last time. They just don't make them like that anymore.