Kenny Rogers passed away in March of last year aged 81. The singer songwriter and producer gave the world wonderful songs, and lived his life just the way he wanted to.
However, before he left us, Rogers made sure to prepare everything. This included talking to friends and family, and even selling assets to prepare his final goodbye.
Kenny Rogers is probably one of the singers who had the most influence on country music – something that became very clear after his tragic death last year.
Just hours after his passing, social media was flooded with sorrowful tributes to the much-loved country music legend who left an indelible mark on the history of American music.
Over the course of his whole career, Kenny worked extremely hard for every penny he earned, and made sure he shared his wealth with wife Wanda Miller and his five kids. At the time of Kenny’s death, the three-time Grammy award winner was valued at a huge and really impressive sum.
Kenny Rogers – early life
Despite his enormous success on both the country and pop charts, many people have testified that Kenny Rogers was a slightly different sort of country music superstar – he was kind, very unselfish and humble to the last.
Much of his personality can be traced back to his troubled childhood at the tail end of the Great Depression. Kenneth Donald Rogers came into the world on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas.
Kenny was born into a very poor family. He grew up with his parents and six siblings in a federal housing project in Houston, on the wrong side of the tracks.
“We were on welfare most of my childhood,” Kenny said.
His dad worked as a carpenter but struggled with alcoholism, something that naturally affected Kenny and the whole family.
Troubled relationship with father
“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,” Kenny said in 2012.
His father’s troubled relationship with alcohol had long-term consequences for Kenny. However, it also caused him to never drink in his life. Kenny saw how it destroyed his father and the other people he worked with. It made him consciously decide to never drink.
Kenny’s challenging upbringing at least offered something good. He developed an iron will and always knew what he wanted. In his autobiography, “Luck or Something Like It”, Kenny describes how his childhood shaped him:
“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”.
Kenny Rogers – start of career
As early as high school, Kenny knew he wanted to become a singer and pursue a career in music. But nothing came for free – before Kenny became famous, he made a living as a busboy at the Rice Hotel in Houston.
He also cleaned the floor in a hat shop to earn some extra cents. In his youth, Kenny never really learned how to manage money. According to himself, he would spend every dollar as he got it.
Kenny, who was the first in his family to graduate high school, started his first band in the late 1950’s, a group called the Scholars.
Kenny wasn’t the lead singer of the band, but he had his own spotlight number, called “Moonlight in Vermont”. The Scholars managed to score a few local hits that sold around Houston. Through this, Kenny got a taste of what it meant to be famous and appreciated – not least among the girls.
His brother, Lelan, remembered a particular highlight from the beginning of Kenny’s career, when he sang solo at a local concert.
“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,’” Lelan recalled in 2014.
Experimented with different styles
In 1958, Kenny then had a minor breakthrough when he recorded the hit single “That Crazy Feeling”. He also made an appearance on the popular music program American Bandstand.
During the early years of his music career, Kenny experimented with many different styles of music. He played bass in a jazz group and tried folk-style pop when he joined the band New Christy Minstrels in 1996. With the group First Edition, which mixed many different music styles, Kenny had another hit; the psychedelic song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”.
In the mid-1970s, Kenny once again embarked on a solo career and this time he would become a household name all across the United States.
His focus turned to country music. The ballad “Lucille”, released in 1977, became a huge success. The song gave Kenny his first Grammy – though he had been highly hesitant to do the song from the beginning.
According to the song’s producer, Larry Butler, Kenny thought “Lucille” was too country and not really appropriate for him to do.
But was that really the truth?
“I knew it was gonna be a hit, Larry Butler and I both,” Kenny told author Bill DeYoung.
“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.”
In 1978, Kenny followed up his success with “The Gambler”. The instant hit became one of Kenny’s most famous songs and earned him another Grammy.
“I think I’ve had songs that were bigger in sales. But none that were bigger in identity for me. I go to Korea and people say ‘Oooh, the gambler.’ And it’s really sweet. It’s really cute”, Kenny said.
When mentioning Kenny Rogers, however, people don’t just think of his hits as a solo artist. He became at least as well known for his duets and, above all, his collaborations with country legend Dolly Parton.
Partnership with Dolly Parton
The iconic duo recorded several songs together, the most famous of which, “Islands in the Stream”, was released in 1983.
The song, written by the Bee Gees, topped the charts, and was honored with the Academy of Country Music Award for Single of the Year.
Through the years, Kenny Roger had collaborations with many artists. However, few could have meant more to him than that he shared with one of his closest friends; Dolly Parton.
The two sang together many times, and during the last years of Kenny’s life, they performed together as well. He was always there for her, and she was always there for him.
In September of 2016, Kenny performed to a sold-out concert at Parton’s amusement park, Dollywood, where they raised $60,000 for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Just weeks later, Dolly called Kenny once again.
Kenny Rogers – net worth
This time, he joined her and many other artists at the “Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” telethon. It helped raise nearly $9 million for the victims of the Smoky Mountain wildfires.
In 2017, Dolly and Kenny performed a song for the very last time together at Kenny’s final show in Nashville. When Kenny passed away in March of 2020, Dolly wrote a heartfelt tribute to her beloved friend.
“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 wrote.
At the peak of his career, Kenny Roger had everything one could dream of. He had sold $250,000,000 worth of records, owned a private Lear jet, and lived on his 1,200–acre farm in east Georgia.
At the time of his death, the singer songwriter, actor and producer from Texas was valued at an incredible $250 million. Kenny managed to accumulate an insane amount of wealth through the 65 albums he recorded, which combined to sell some 165 million records.
Cause of death
According to Closer Weekly, Kenny shared his wealth with wife Wanda Miller and his five kids: Carole, 61, Kenny Jr., 55, Christopher, 38, and twin sons Justin and Jordan, both 15.
Kenny Rogers passed away March 20, 2020, aged 81. It came as a shock to people all over the world. Kenny was a deeply loved singer and producer, who had an amazing family as well as friends.
“He passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” a statement from his family read.
It has been reported by several outlets that Kenny Rogers actually had cancer. However, this has not been confirmed.
During the last months of his life, Kenny seemed to actually prepare for his passing.
According to RadarOnline, he allegedly sold many of his assets. Rogers’ also settled his legal and financial affairs, as reported by National Enquirer.
“Kenny has bravely tried to wrap up the loose ends of his extraordinary life — such as signing over his $1.3 million home to his wife, Wanda Miller.
“He just wants to stay alive long enough to see his 14-year-old twin boys, Justin and Jordan, graduate from high school,” the outlet wrote.
Rogers said goodbye to this world with his family by his side. Even his beloved friend Dolly Parton got the goodbye any friend would wish – even though it, of course, was a sad one.
The 1980s song “Islands in the Stream”, written by Bee Gees’ frontman Barry Gibb, became one of the biggest songs ever. Kenny recorded a duet with Dolly Parton of the hit song, and the country superstar actually invited him over to record some new songs.
However, according to RadarOnline, Rogers declined the offer, and said goodbye for the final time.
“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,” according to RadarOnline.
Kenny Rogers will forever be remembered as one of the greatest singer songwriters and producers. We will make sure to cherish his memory by playing his songs, and hopefully, his legacy will live on forever.
Thank you for all the wonderful songs Kenny, we miss you so much. Please, share this story on Facebook to honor Kenny Rogers!