Last Friday, the late great Kenny Rogers passed away due to natural causes under the care of hospice with his family beside him. The legendary musician was of age 81, and his career as an icon and pioneer of country music spanned six decades.
“Country Music has lost the great Kenny Rogers, who has forever left a mark on Country Music’s history,” the Country Music Association said in a statement.
Perhaps he was too early for my time, but for my parents, who had come to the United States in the 1980s, he was one of their first introductions to American culture. They lived a block away from him in his time at Athens, GA, and they described his voice as one that was truly special, something sent from heaven itself to make sweet the burdens of life. Many times they would play one of his songs on the radio, listening to the way he effortlessly hit notes with such precision yet so much power.
When we remember him today, there are simply too many songs to choose one that can truly define his brilliance and musical talent. My mom’s favorite was “The Gambler”, his ultra popular hit that many have come to remember him by and remains well-loved even today. My dad loved “Islands in the Stream,” an explosive duet between two of the great musicians of the time that showcased his unique ability to collaborate with other artists in a way that was truly magical.
As for me, I fell in love with “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer,” a heartbreaking yet beautifully developed single about two lovers with doomed fates, with all its twists and turns.
In an age where fast-paced hip-hop and artificially generated music dominate much of what the younger generations listen to, it was always a gift to slow down and enjoy a piece of music for what it was, by the nature of his voice or by the simple instrumentals surrounding it.
Perhaps many will remember him by his music, but it was his personality that truly made him one of America’s most enduring, beloved and honored entertainers. My parents had the opportunity to meet him a few times, and they found him to be one of the nicest people in the world, one that treated his fans in a way that was nothing short of authentic and genuine. He was gentle yet inspirational, and even when he was on top of the world in regards to his fame, those around him knew that he stayed true to himself till the end.
“He was always in a good mood and had a wonderful sense of humor about things,” Rogers’ ex-wife said in a recent interview. “And he really didn’t change with fame.”
Celebrities from across the globe have come together to say their condolences and reflect on the impact that Rogers made in his life as a singer and as a friend.
“Today I lost one of my closest friends So much laughter so many adventures to remember, my heart is broken… My prayers go out to Kenny’s Family,” Lionel Richie tweeted.
Today I lost one of my closest friends 💔So much laughter so many adventures to remember, my heart is broken… My prayers go out to Kenny’s Family.🙏 pic.twitter.com/2lbwFffeYq
— Lionel Richie (@LionelRichie) March 21, 2020
One of his closest friends, Dolly Parton, who he performed “Islands in the Stream” with, also issued a statement.
“You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend,” she said.
As other musicians, politicians, friends, and at-home listeners reflect on the legacy that Kenny Rogers left, it becomes clear that he was not just a beloved musician but rather a national icon, one that helped influence the great artists that are alive today, and one that will continue to shine at dinner tables across the world as families come together to share a song of joy and remembrance.
Featured image by writeonmusic.com