Known for his instantly identifiable raspy vocals and an extraordinary ability to vividly inhabit each song he performs, Kenny Rogers has enjoyed great success during his storied career of nearly five and a half decades. A groundbreaking recording artist, distinctive vocalist and consummate entertainer, the legendary music icon is one of the elite few whose voice is instantly recognized the world over.
The country and pop superstar has endeared music lovers around the globe with his amazing songs, heartfelt performances and rare storytelling ability while receiving countless awards for his music and charity work, including three GRAMMY Awards, 18 American Music Awards, 11 People’s Choice Awards, eight Academy of Country Music Awards and five Country Music Association Awards. In addition, he has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Entertainment Buyers Association, is a recipient of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music, and in 1990, Kenny was honored with the Horatio Alger Award, given to those who have distinguished themselves despite humble beginnings.
Rogers, who was announced as a Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee on April 10, 2013 and who will be officially inducted in a special Medallion Ceremony this fall, is the RIAA’s 8th-best-selling male artist of all time with 1 Diamond album, 19 Platinum albums, 31 Gold albums and sales of more than 120 million records worldwide. His Greatest Hits has sold over 24 million copies worldwide. The first country artist to consistently sell out arenas, Rogers has played to millions of fans around the world. Against all odds, he has charted a record within each of the last seven decades (50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, 2010’s).
Rogers has recorded 24 No. 1 songs (including “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Lucille,” “She Believes In Me,” “Through The Years,” “Love Will Turn You Around,” and “Islands In The Stream”) and 12 No. 1 albums. Rogers’ 2011 release, The Love Of God, became his 21st Top 10 Country album.
His 28 Billboard Adult Contemporary Top 10’s is sixth-best all-time, and fourth-best among men, trailing only Elton John, Neil Diamond and Elvis Presley. Rogers was the only male artist to notch Billboard AC Top 10s in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s (only Barbra Streisand also managed that feat in those decades). He has sent the most country No. 1’s to the top spot on AC (five of his eight AC No. 1’s were also country No. 1’s) and no core country artist has crossed over more titles to AC.
He is unique in that he has enjoyed success in such a variety of genres—jazz, folk, country and pop. Houston-born Rogers formed his first band while in high school in 1956—a rockabilly group called the Scholars—and has never quit making music. He charted as a solo artist in the late 50’s with “That Crazy Feeling” (released on Kix Records in 1957 as Kenneth Rogers and picked up by Carlton Records in 1958) and performed the song on American Bandstand, played stand-up bass in the jazz group the Bobby Doyle Three (appearing on their album released by Columbia Records), and in 1966 became a member of the popular folk group, The New Christy Minstrels.
The spotlight started focusing on Rogers when his group, the First Edition, scored their first hit, "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Pop and country chart success followed for the band with "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" (when the group officially became known as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition). A string of hits, including “Reuben James,” “Something’s Burning” and “Tell It All Brother,” and a TV variety show continued to make the popular group relevant. But it was Rogers’ breakthrough, Grammy-winning performance of “Lucille” as a solo artist in 1977 that propelled him to superstardom, launching one of the most prosperous careers in the history of music. Certified gold, “Lucille” was named Song of the Year and Single of the Year by the Academy of Country Music and also earned Single of the Year honors from the Country Music Association.
"Daytime Friends," "Sweet Music Man," and "Love Or Something Like It” continued his run of success. Then came his smash hit, "The Gambler," a story song so vivid it not only delighted country and pop fans, it also became a TV movie, starring Rogers himself in the title role as Brady Hawkes. The movie spawned four follow-ups, making it the longest running miniseries franchise on television. The five Gambler mini-series have attracted over 100 million viewers nationwide and launched a second career for Rogers as an actor on television and movies, including another TV movie based on one of his #1 hit songs, “Coward of the County.”
Though theoretically a country singer, Rogers dominated the pop charts, consistently finding songs with universal appeal. “I've never considered myself a great singer, but I am a great storyteller," Rogers told Billboard magazine, also noting that he feels his strength as an artist is in finding great songs.
While drawing new listeners and fans to Country Music in the 1980s, he came to embody the role of the sensitive male, singing such romantic hits as “Through The Years,” “She Believes In Me,” “You Decorated My Life,” and “Lady,” the biggest song of his career. Those songs are classics today, sung at countless weddings, and even engraved on tombstones.
"There are a lot of songs that may have initial success but don't linger the period of time those songs have," Rogers says. "They do take a different value in your heart when they have that kind of staying power that represents your success and represents a feeling and a thought. A song like that becomes a part of your soul."
In 1985, Kenny participated in the historical USA For Africa recording of “We Are The World,” the multi-celebrity performance which raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa. A year later, he co-chaired the audacious “Hands Across America” fund-raiser for America’s hungry.
Into the late 80’s and 90’s, in addition to staying busy on the road with worldwide touring and recording new music, Rogers established himself as a well-respected photographer, publishing several books, and was even invited to the White House to shoot a portrait of First Lady Hillary Clinton. He also authored several short stories, and appeared off-Broadway in his Christmas musical, The Toy Shoppe, which he subsequently toured.
In 1999, after forming his own record company, Dreamcatcher Entertainment, Rogers returned to the charts in a big way with the hit and #1 video, "The Greatest," and when the follow-up, "Buy Me a Rose," hit #1 in 2000, Rogers, at age 61, became the oldest artist in chart history to have a #1 solo record on the country chart, proving his talent was just as vibrant and meaningful as it was when he first started out. That same year, the Recording Industry Association of America awarded Kenny the prestigious Diamond Award celebrating sales of more than 10 million albums for his Greatest Hits album (sales to date exceed 24 million).
He has continued his amazing run into the 21st century with a critically acclaimed album (Water and Bridges) produced by the award-winning Dann Huff, a hit single, “I Can’t Unlove You,” a Grammy nomination (“Calling Me,” a duet with Don Henley), a Gold-certified record (21 Number Ones); and the singer’s first inspirational Gospel album, The Love Of God. Released to critical acclaim in the United States in 2011, The Love Of God has been referred to by Rogers as “one of the best things I’ve ever done.” The album, which features guest appearances by The Whites, Point of Grace, and Winfield’s Locket and songs both traditional and new (with writers such as Vince Gill and Michael McDonald), was re-titled Faith and released by Wrasse Records in Europe on May 28, 2012 to rave reviews.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Rogers is now a New York Times Best Selling Author. His autobiography, Luck or Something Like It – A Memoir, immediately became a New York Times Best Seller upon its October 2, 2012 release by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, and continues to receive stellar reviews.
Rogers was also the only artist to perform at both the popular Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, and the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, this summer. Rogers wowed the crowd at the CMA Music Festival on May 9, 2012 to multiple standing ovations and was showered by love and chants of “Kenny! Kenny!” at Bonnaroo on May 10, 2012, receiving incredible reviews on his performance from the likes of Rolling Stone, MTV.com, FUSE TV, CMT, Yahoo Music, American Songwriter Magazine, and many others. “Spellbinding…breathtaking…One of the 10 Best Performances of Bonnaroo 2012…” said Billboard Magazine about Kenny’s set. SPIN raved: “The country star fit in beautifully (at Bonnaroo), delivering crisp versions of hits like ‘Love Or Something Like It’ and ‘Islands In The Stream’…He belongs…” Kenny played to a huge audience in the afternoon and was joined by his longtime friend, Lionel Richie, on stage as a surprise guest for “Lady.” Later that evening, Rogers joined Phish on stage in front of 70,000 fans during the closing set of the festival to perform “The Gambler.” The day after, the assembled media proclaimed their excitement about his performances as well.
It was announced on March 27, 2013 that Rogers will play the main stage at Britain’s Glastonbury Festival, the world’s largest outdoor music and performing arts spectacle, with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Mumford & Sons, Rufus Wainwright, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend and others. Rogers will also represent Country Music headlining Festival Timitar – a world music festival – in Agadir, Morocco.
In the summer of 2012, Rogers sang “The Gambler” during the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction and awards ceremony in New York City to honor long-time friend and writer of the song, Don Schlitz, at Don’s induction into the Hall. And in early May 2012, Rogers completed his Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Artist-in-Residence in Nashville, which was marked by two amazing intimate performances at the Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater. It was announced there that he had signed a long-term recording contract with Warner Bros. Records. Rogers is recording a new album for Warner Music Nashville, which is scheduled for release in 2013.
Remaining a popular entertainer around the world, Rogers, voted the "Favorite Singer of All-Time" in a 1986 joint poll by readers of both USA Today and People, still loves touring and recording new music. Rogers completed a very successful tour of Australia and New Zealand in August of 2012, and performed in Asia in October 2012. Rogers was one of the most talked about performances of the sold-out 2012 Stagecoach Festival in Indio, CA where over 55,000 fans attended each day. On November 23, 2012, Rogers embarked on his 31st Christmas tour – 2012 Christmas & Hits – in the United States. The tour wrapped December 23, 2012.
Rogers’ most recent musical offerings were released by Gaither Music Group in 2012 – Christmas Live! on September 25, 2012 and Amazing Grace (a re-release of Rogers’ Gospel album) on October 9, 2012.
"I really, really love what I'm doing," Rogers says. "People survive longer if they love what they're doing – because you just don't quit."
Kenny Rogers is the singer, musician, songwriter, photographer, producer, actor, and of course…The Gambler.