August 21, 1938
🇺🇸 Houston, TX
March 20, 2020
Country-pop crossover king Kenny Rogers was one of the most popular entertainers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, buoyed by a series of classic hits including "Lucille," "Lady" and his signature story song, "The Gambler."
Houston-born Rogers first recorded as a member of his high school doo-wop quartet the Scholars, scoring a regional hit with the solo single "That Crazy Feeling" prior to co-founding the jazz act the Bobby Doyle Three. Upon relocating to Los Angeles, Rogers briefly served with the New Christy Minstrels before defecting from the folk group's lineup to join the psych-rock combo the First Edition, notching a series of pop radio hits including "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town."
Rogers resumed his solo career in 1976, signing to United Artists and teaming with producer Larry Butler. "Lucille," released in January 1977, soared to number one on the Billboard country singles chart and number five on the Hot 100, topping the pop charts in 12 countries worldwide on its way to selling more than five million copies. "The Gambler," which features backing vocals by the incomparable Jordanaires (the longtime support quartet behind Elvis Presley), rocketed to the top of the country charts and reached number 16 on the Hot 100 - an impressive achievement at a moment in time when country hits rarely crossed over to pop radio. "The Gambler" went on to win Rogers the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, also inspiring no fewer than five made-for-TV westerns.
Rogers dominated both country and pop radio as the new decade unfolded, teaming with producer Lionel Richie (at the time still best known for his work in the Commodores) for the solo hits "Lady" and "Through the Years." Rogers also recorded a series of smash duets with partners including Dottie West ("Every Time Two Fools Collide"), Kim Carnes ("Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer"), Sheena Easton ("We've Got Tonight") and, most famously, Dolly Parton ("Islands in the Stream"). Rogers' pop chart fortunes dimmed in the latter half of the Reagan Era, but he remained a force on country radio. Rogers retired from live performance in 2017, and died March 20, 2020 at the age of 81.