Legendary country music star, Kenny Rogers died on March 20, 2020 at age 81. He left the world with a legacy that spanned more than six decades, and forever impacted the world of country music. But, he was more than a country music star – he was a film star, best selling author, and a producer. He has worked with the likes of Lionel Richie and had a long-standing friendship with Dolly Parton. As well as being one of the most successful country music artists of all time, he may be one of the best selling artists in general and was even inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014.
Rogers was a part of the supergroup ‘USA for Africa’ performing and recording “We Are the World,” which raised millions of dollars to bring food, medicine, and infrastructure to Africa in 1985. This group was composed of many famous artists from Stevie Wonder, to Cyndi Lauper. In 2010, the group came back together and raised money to aid Haiti after the earthquake, and Lionel Richie – one of the producers, has even said he wants to release yet another version to help bring relief for the world during Covid-19.
He started his career in the 50’s and quickly proved that he would leave a lasting mark on the world. He has earned three Grammys, had 21 singles at the number 1 spot in the charts, and has sold over 120 million records making him one of the Top Ten Best Selling Male Solo Artists of All Time. Some of his most memorable and influential songs include:
This was one of his longest standing number 1 hit, and what many came to know him for, even though it was originally written by Don Schlitz.
Penned by Lionel Richie, this was his first number 1 single.
This is one that came from the beginning of his solo career. It has iconic lines such as, “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille,” that stuck in the minds of generations.
'Islands in the Stream' (with Dolly Parton) (1983)
He had an enduring friendship with Dolly Parton, and there is even a song at the end of this list that commemorates this beautiful relationship.
Produced by Lionel Richie, and remade by Stevie Wonder, this is another classic hit.
Another hit from the beginning of his solo career. This has been a favorite for countless other country music stars to cover.
'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town' (1969)
A darker song from before his solo career, this released in the Vietnam War era, but actually originally a Korean War era story. It is about a soldier who has been wounded in the war, lost his legs, and begs for his wife’s affection, but is refused. The upbeat nature of the song betrays the underlying unsettling nature of the song.
Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer
This is an example of what Kenny Rogers became famous for – crossovers. This is a country-pop crossover featuring songwriter and performer, Kim Carnes.
The last song, which was written in 2013, is in honor of Rodger’s friendship with Dolly Parton, “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” The story, according to Kenny Rogers, while they were recording the song, at one point Dolly Parton stepped away from her mic and suddenly came up to him, put her arms around his neck, and told him, “I could never sing at your funeral.” A profoundly sweet memory, seven years later. But, the song speaks for itself with lyrics like, “What will I do when you’re gone? Who’s gonna tell me the truth? … How will I sing when you’re gone? Cause it won’t sound the same.”
Written by Lex Voytek