Kenny Rogers, the king of country music, had an awesome life. When he passed away in 2020, he left millions of heartbroken fans mourning, as he gave them so much during his incredible career of 65 years.
The musician and actor was born on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas. His childhood wasn’t an easy one as his family struggled to make ends meet. His father, who worked as a carpenter, did all in his power to provide for the family, but doing that wasn’t easy during those times so he turned to the alcohol. Kenny spoke of his childhood and said, “I think that one of the real tragedies in my life is that I never really got to know why my dad drank. He couldn’t really support his family and I think it just broke him down. It breaks my heart that I didn’t know that before he passed away.”
Seeing what his addiction did to his dad, Kenny made a decision to never drink alcohol himself.
In his book, “Luck or Something Like It,” the musician wrote how his childhood shaped him in the man he became. “I think it made me more determined. One of the things I talk about in the book is the fine line between being driven and being selfish. I think there were times in my life I was so driven I became very selfish, and I’m not proud of that. I think it’s a realization I came to when I was writing this book.”
When he started high-school, Kenny already knew he wanted to be a singer. Soon after, he joined the band The Scholars. They had concerts and performed life in Houston, and everyone who knew Kenny somehow knew his place belonged on stage.
Speaking of one of Kenny’s first solo performances in his hometown, his older brother Lelan said, “All the little girls started screaming and carrying on. It was just like Elvis. And my wife leaned over and said to me, ‘There’s your star.’ I said ‘That’s no star, it’s just my kid brother.’” Kenny did turn into an icon and one of the most legendary musicians who helped shape country music forever.
At the beginning of his career, Kenny wasn’t sure which music style suited him best so he tried himself in many. However, it turned out that country was what he loved best at the end.
In 1977, one of the most famous ballads up until this day, Lucille, was born. It was so great and so loved by many that it brought Kenny his first out of the three Grammy Awards he earned for his everlasting music.
The song’s producer, Larry Butler, said how Kenny hesitated whether to take that song or not as it sounded too country to him, but that’s not how Kenny remembers the story behind the huge hit. “We remember the story differently. He remembers me not liking it, and I don’t … but whatever’s real is real. But I remember both of us looking at each other – and I think we both really, truly felt this was gonna be a major country record. I don’t think either one of us ever dreamed it would be what it ended up being,” he told author Bill DeYoung.
Next was another Grammy worth song, The Gambler, which somehow cemented Kenny’s spot in the music industry.
Throughout his career and his captivating solo performances, there was a collaboration that captured the hearts of many. That of Kenny and Dolly Parton. The two performed together and made many famous songs, including the 1983 hit Islands in the Stream. Kenny and Dolly remained very close friends their whole lives. When Kenny died, she wrote a heartfelt tribute that touched many. “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.”
It wasn’t just Dolly who described Kenny as a wonderful person, but pretty much everyone who had ever met him. He was considered a genuine and a very generous man.
Kenny was married five times, although he didn’t consider himself a womanizer. In fact, he once said, “And this may seem like an absurd statement, but every woman I married, I really loved when I married her. And I do not blame them for the marriage falling apart. I blame myself and my chosen field of music. That’s why I say that music is a mistress, because you can not wait to get out there to it, and usually the mistress wins in a situation like that.”
He had five children and stayed together with his last wife, with whom he had two twins, until the rest of his life.
“They say that twins at my age will either make you or break you. Right now I’m leaning towards break. I would kill for the energy they’ve got,” Kenny, who was 66 when Jordan and Justin were born in 2004, told People magazine. He met Wanda Miller, who was 28 years his junior, while he was on a blind date with another woman. Her parents, who were two years younger than Kenny, weren’t happy with their daughter dating an older man, but he promised to them that he would never lie to her or hurt her, and he kept his word.
Kenny Rogers, who retired in 2015, said at the time, “I’ve been so lucky to have enjoyed such a long career and to have such amazing support from my fans and all who have helped me along the way, but there comes a time when I need to focus on spending time with my family.”
“My life is about my wife and my 11-year-old twin boys right now. There are a lot of things I want to do together with them to create some special memories.”
The following year he came out of retirement and took both boys on his final tour ‘The Gambler’s Last Deal’.
“My goal is to spend some time with them and take them to some places they might not have gone to without me. So, they can look back someday and say, ‘My dad took me there.’ That, to me, is my legacy to them,” the star told Rare Country.
When Rogers decided to stop touring so he could spend more time with his sons he told CMT: “I hope my fans understand that I’m a father first and a singer second… I’m missing some very great parts of my boys’ lives. I know as well as anybody else how that time gets away from you. And I don’t want to miss it. I just worry about how much longer I’m going to be here, and I want to have time to spend with them. It’s pretty simple.”
At the time of his death, March 20, 2020, the singer songwriter, producer, and actor, who always said he wasn’t good with managing money, left his wife and his five kids $250 million. He released 65 albums and sold over 165 million records.
Kenny also owned a 973-acre ranch in Georgia. The “Beaver Dam Farm” which includes an enormous mansion, a golf course, fishing lakes, tennis courts, two swimming pools, five guests houses, and an equestrian center was built by Kenny himself and is as legendary as the musician himself. Kenny was very proud of it and welcomed many guests there.
After his death, the Wilbert Group said the property had been auctioned and sold.
A number of outlets reported that Kenny had cancer. However, this was never confirmed. The only thing the family shared was that he was preparing for his passing. In Touch Weekly reported his wife to have said: “He just wants to stay alive long enough to see his 14-year-old twin boys, Justin and Jordan, graduate from high school.”
According to Radar Online, “Dolly begged him to join her to try to write some songs. But even a short drive was too much for him. He literally could no longer stand for more than a few minutes at a time.” Instead of joining his life long friend in making music, he said his final goodbye.
Rest in peace Kenny. We miss you!
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