One year ago today, the Gambler played his final hand. Kenny Rogers died peacefully in his home surrounded by his loved ones at the age of 81. To honor the memory of one of the best-selling country artists of all time, we’re going to look back at his career. Let’s see what made Rogers a legend.
Kenny Rogers – The Early Days
Before his death, Kenny Rogers had a long, varied, and successful career. His musical career spanned six decades and several genres. While we know him as an award-winning country music legend, his career started in a much different place. Roger’s first band was a vocal harmony group in high school called The Scholars. He came to prominence with The First Edition. That band blended rock and psychedelic pop with a splash of country. You might know one of their songs from The Big Lebowski. When The Dude gets drugged at the garden party, the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” serves as the soundtrack to his bowling-themed psychedelic adventure.
Only a few years after The First Edition rebranded to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, Rogers left the band. He wanted to strike out on his own and pursue a career in country music.
Rogers Goes Country
In 1976, Kenny Rogers dropped his first country album. Love Lifted Me Up was a minor success for the new country artist. The title track from the album hit the top-20. Rogers had plenty more in the tank, though. He dropped his second country album later that year. That album produced his first number-one country hit, “Lucille.” From there Rogers continued to release hit albums and songs. In fact, before he died, Kenny Rogers released twenty-five top-ten albums, eleven number-one country albums, and landed two dozen songs at the top of the country chart.
Even if you’re not a fan of Kenny Rogers’ huge body of work, you most likely know his signature songs. “The Gambler,” gave Rogers his nickname. At the same time, it shot to the top of the charts and brought him a Grammy. To this day, the classic tune is synonymous with Rogers.
“Islands in the Stream” saw the Gambler teaming up with the Patron Saint of Appalachia herself, Dolly Parton. This song shot to the top of the charts and netted Kenny Rogers a platinum platter. It became his second signature song. Between the three tracks mentioned so far, you can see the range of Rogers’ musical talent.
Kenny Rogers on the Screen
Kenny Rogers wasn’t just an expert musician. He also had some serious acting chops. He was in several made-for-TV movies. Also, Rogers made appearances in some great series. In fact, Rogers starred in a western titled The Gambler, based on his hit song. In that film, Rogers stars as Brady Hawkes, a professional gambler. The film spawned four sequels and showcased Rogers’ music as well as his acting chops.
Kenny Rogers also appeared on various television shows over the years. These series include Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, How I Met Your Mother, and Evening Shade, according to his IMDb profile.
Rogers Did It All
You would think that being one of the best-selling musicians of all time and having an acting career would take up all of Kenny Rogers’ time. However, he did so much more. For starters, he founded a chain of chicken restaurants with the former CEO of KFC. Kenny Rogers Roasters was a strong contender in the world of chicken joints. Unfortunately, the last one closed about a decade ago.
Kenny Rogers was also involved with several charitable organizations. For the most part, his charity work focused on raising money for Parkinson’s research and helping underprivileged children around the world.
In the end, Kenny Rogers had several awards, platinum records, and a heart of gold. No matter where you look in his long and legendary career, you’re bound to find an ace that you can keep.