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Kenny Rogers Dead: Grammy Winner Was 81
Multi-Grammy and Country Music Association-award winning musician Kenny Rogers died at his Georgia home Friday. The celebrated singer was 81 years old. In an eclectic career that spanned more than six decades, Rogers’ hits, including songs like “The Gambler,” “Islands in the Stream,” and “Lady,” spanned musical genres and sold over 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Rogers was born in Houston in 1938, formed a doo-wop group while still in high school and released his first single, “That Crazy Feeling,” in 1957. He would later play in jazz and folk bands, and scored his first Billboard top ten with the 1967 psychedelic rock hit “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” performed with his band The First Edition. (The song was introduced to a new generation when it was featured in the dream sequence of The Big Lebowski.)
Rogers would go onto have other hits with The First Edition, including the band’s recording of “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” which tells the story of a paralyzed Vietnam veteran who is powerless to stop his wife from seeing other men. But he would be best known as a solo country and pop artist, performing songs like his signature 1978 tune “The Gambler,” which inspired a string of TV movies, and crossover hits like “Lady” and the Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream,” both of which made it to number one on Billboard’s pop and country charts.
Rogers retired in 2015 to spend more time with his wife, Wanda Miller, and their twin sons. “You either do what everyone else is doing and you do it better,” he told The Associated Press that year of his wide-ranging career, “or you do what no one else is doing and you don’t invite comparison.”
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.