How much was Kenny Rogers worth?
|Net Worth:||$250 Million|
|Date of Birth:||August 21, 1938|
|Country:||United States of America|
“I’m ambitious but success is not what drives me. Happiness drives me. I would’ve been content being a local musician, I think, playing my music as long as I could make my house payment and my car payment. . . I would’ve been happy with that.” — Kenny Rogers, on fame.
Who Is Kenny Rogers
Between the years of 1975 and 1985, the world of pop music witnessed very few superstars able to pump out hit after understated hit like veteran country-pop singer Kenny Rogers. An award-winning music star known more for his massive popularity than critical acclaim, Rogers nonetheless displayed an uncanny ability to be a multi-faceted, quintessential crossover artist. At one time during the early ’80s, in fact, Rogers had so saturated the pop culture landscape that his face or voice could be found almost continuously on every radio or television set in many typical American households.
Rogers grew up in the eclectic country music hotbed of Houston, beginning his music career as a teenager during the late ’50s. For the ensuing decade, he would dabble in various music styles ranging from doo-wop to jazz before settling somewhat on a formative style of country-rock. Soon after joining the folk pop group New Christy Minstrels, Rogers and other members of that group went out on their own to form The First Edition, a band that enjoyed an impressive run during the late ’60s on the strength of stylistically diverse singles like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and the tongue-in-cheek psychedelic hit “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).”
In The Beginning
Kenny Rogers came from lower-class roots. He was the first child in his family to graduate high school. Rogers grew up in Houston, Texas, where his family lived in a federal housing project. His father was an alcoholic and an unskilled laborer, who was frequently out of work; his mother was a nurse.
During his school years, Rogers dabbled in music, joining The Scholars; he served as the bass player and sometime vocalist. The group recorded several singles that found local airplay.
After high school, Rogers worked as an office supply salesman until he was fired for keeping odd hours. He played for the jazz-pop group The Bobby Doyle Trio where Rogers made a good living — earning $700 to $800 a week in the late 1950s. When the group broke up, he joined the folk ensemble The Christy Minstrels.
Instant Solo Stardom – The ’70s
Rogers continued to record with The First Edition for several years into the ’70s, quickly gaining top billing as the group’s lead singer with the smooth voice and laid-back, bearded image. However, it was probably inevitable that Rogers would go solo at some point, even though no one could have been prepared for how quickly he would master that role. 1977’s wistful, worldwide No. 1 pop hit “Lucille” set what would turn out to be a nearly unshakable pattern for singles success. By the time undisputed classics “The Gambler” and “Coward of the County” topped the charts a couple of years later, Rogers had already become an icon and legend.
’80s Success Makes Rogers into Screen Star & King of Duets
Rogers was an early-’80s entertainment Midas of huge proportions, turning two of his recent hit songs into successful TV movies and even starring in his own Hollywood film, 1982’s Six Pack. Nevertheless, Rogers maintained his musical momentum by teaming with fellow pop music genius Lionel Richie, who wrote and produced 1981’s top hit “Lady.” Furthermore, as a duet artist, Rogers enjoyed major hits with popular female performers from Kim Carnes (“Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer”) to Sheena Easton (“We’ve Got Tonight”) to country-pop legend Dolly Parton (“Islands in the Stream”). Along the way, Rogers’ song selection and savvy as an interpreter of others’ material exceeded almost every competitor.
Slow Decline, Ongoing Legacy
By 1986 Rogers’ relevance as a pop singles artist had almost completely disappeared, but he still remained a formidable presence on the country charts in both the U.S. and Canada. And although it didn’t take terribly long for the singer to become a bit of a comic footnote – showing up prominently in a plotline of a Seinfeld episode involving his Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant chain. As a recording artist and performer, Rogers slowed a bit throughout the ’90s but experienced a resurgence that culminated in 2000 with his No. 1 country hit “Buy Me a Rose,” which made the singer, at 61, the oldest country music artist to achieve that distinction.
Claims to Fame:
- Began his career with the folk-rock group New Edition.
- Was an unprecedented crossover success for a country singer — scoring six top 10 songs on the Billboard pop charts between 1977 and 1982.
- Has sold over 85 million records.
- Went into the fast-food business with his Kenny Rogers Roasters fried-chicken franchise.
Rocking Out with First Edition
After The Christy Minstrels dissolved, Rogers joined First Edition, a group that freely mixed country, folk, and rock-‘n’-roll.
Kenny Rogers became the band’s breakout star, singing their best known song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)”. The tune turned into a #5 pop hit. While the group initially shared vocals, Rogers soon rose to the role of frontman. With the release of “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” the group was renamed Kenny Rogers and First Edition. When the group broke up in 1967, Rogers went on to pursue a solo career as a country singer.
Going Country with ‘Lucille’
After a residency at Las Vegas’s Gold Nugget Casino, Kenny Rogers released his self-titled debut in 1976. The single “Lucille” was released the next year and became one of Rogers’s most enduring hits. The tune helped prove his country credentials, and was named Single of the Year by the Country Music Association; it peaked at #5 on the pop charts.
In the years to come, Rogers’s velvet voice and straightforward delivery were embraced by country and pop audiences alike. Later hits would include “The Gambler” and “Coward of the County.” Each were produced by Larry Butler, who was instrumental in crafting Rogers’s early sound.
Going Pop in the 1980s
In 1980 Kenny Rogers went in an R&B direction by recording Lionel Ritchie’s “Lady”. He continued in this path by working with Barry Gibb (The Bee Gees) on 1983’s The Eyes that See in the Dark, which yielded the #1 hit “Islands in the Stream.”
At the same time, his Greatest Hits proved hugely popular — spending a total 181 weeks on the Billboard album charts.
Falling Out of Favor
Rogers’s crossover sensibility became increasingly out of favor with mainstream country audiences as New Traditionalist artists like Randy Travis and Ricky Van Shelton took over the airwaves
Rogers had his last pop hit in 1997.
Kenny Rogers was a frequent guest host on the Tonight Show. His 1980 TV movie The Gambler was a ratings smash that led to numerous sequels (four and counting). He also starred in the trucker movie Six Pack.
In 1991 Rogers invested in the fast-food chicken outlet Kenny Rogers Roasters; the concern filed for bankruptcy in 1998.
Best Kenny Rogers Songs
While it’s true that country-pop singer Kenny Rogers will always be best-known and probably most critically lauded for ’70s hits and story songs like “Lucille,””The Gambler” and “Coward of the County,” he also released a number of unforgettable crossover tunes throughout an active career that spanned the ’80s. Eventually, Rogers’ status as a marquee pop music artist faded, but the velvety-voiced bearded wonder nevertheless left a huge mark on the ’80s music landscape. Here’s a chronological look at Rogers’ finest songs from his second decade as a major solo artist.
1. “Love the World Away”
Album Cover Image Courtesy of LibertyAside from the fact that this song served as the soundtrack for one of my first crushes – on a second-grade teacher whose last name (we’ll call her Mrs. F) I still remember quite well – it also happens to remain a quite sparkling love ballad three decades later. Rogers has always known how to pick ’em, and this track benefits from a shimmering, orchestrated arrangement and soaring melody that play to his strengths as a first-rate vocalist. It often seems that softly tinkling piano and slow-building strings were invented for Rogers’ silky voice.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Liberty1980 was a huge year for both Rogers and former Commodore Lionel Richie, bolstered primarily by this massive crossover hit, written by the latter and sung with understated passion by the former. It’s a close to perfect pop song that deftly combines the R&B; influences of Richie with the country music pedigree of Rogers. It also holds up as well as it does because the production and performance are remarkably simple yet undeniably powerful. Rogers’ gravelly but utterly vulnerable vocal style works wonders here, presenting the song’s confessional devotion with scarcely a touch of sappy insincerity. A considerable achievement indeed.
3. “Love Will Turn You Around”
Album Cover Image Courtesy of LibertyFor this more heavily country-accented title track from his 1982 LP, Rogers returns to his roots a bit, maximizing a very pleasant acoustic guitar riff as a solid anchor for one of his most beloved hits. The song also served as the musical centerpiece for Rogers’ one and only cinematic vehicle, Six Pack, a tale of a racecar driver and a group of ragtag kids he befriends. While the tune came up short of becoming a Top 10 pop hit, it topped the country and adult contemporary charts. Even better, it also holds the distinction of being one of Rogers’ only major hits to which he contributed as a songwriter. A feel-good classic that maximizes the artist’s wide mainstream appeal.
4. “All My Life”
Single Cover Image Courtesy of LibertyThroughout his hugely successful career, Rogers has always displayed a keen ability to identify top songwriters and interpret their genuinely high-quality compositions. This 1983 track from that year’s We’ve Got Tonight LP depends heavily on piano and strings once again, but it’s also characterized by a highly melodic and underrated chorus. Co-written by members of future ’90s country supergroup Blackhawk (Van Stephenson and Dave Robbins), the song proves the depth of Rogers’ staying power. Not a huge pop or country hit, the track plays to Rogers’ most pervasive strengths at this point – his ballad-heavy adult contemporary appeal.
5. “This Woman”
Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCAMany fans are at least marginally aware that one of Rogers’ most enduring multi-chart No. 1 North American hits, “Islands in the Stream” (a famous duet with female country music legend Dolly Parton) sprang from the songwriting genius of the Bee Gees. Perhaps fewer realize that Rogers’ entire multi-platinum LP from 1983 (Eyes That See in the Dark) was composed and produced by that group’s namesake, Barry Gibb. One of that album’s lesser-known tunes, “This Woman” benefits highly from the Gibbs’ mastery of melody and nevertheless became a deserving adult contemporary hit in early 1984. There’s not much country going on here, but Rogers’ vocals shine as usual.
Single Cover Image Courtesy of RCAThe name-dropping continues with Rogers’ next massive hit, which started to move the singer strongly back into the country fold just in time for the moment when his crossover appeal began to decline. Co-written with eventual late-’80s pop/rock sensation Richard Marx, this late 1984 tune deservingly became a top country hit despite its keyboard reliance. Rogers’ vocal precision and control had not lessened at this point even if his visibility and clout as a crossover artist had lost some steam. Once again, solid songwriting serves as the key reason for Rogers’ success.
7. “Twenty Years Ago”
Album Cover Image Courtesy of RCARogers continued to register hits on the country charts through the second half of the ’80s, and even if his output could be fairly characterized as a bit weaker than that of his peak years, songs like this 1987 gem proved he could still conjure the old magic from time to time. This bittersweet, nostalgic take on the aging process and the significance of perspective actually has something to say, which allows it to stand up well next to much of the contemporary country of the period. Rather than relying on cheap tear-jerking gimmicks, for example, this track earns its emotional gravity. And Rogers sounds better – and more convincingly grizzled – than ever.
- Greatest Hits (Liberty, 1980): There are numerous Kenny Rogers greatest hits collections, but this one-disc wonder has most of his early hits.
- Through the Years (Capitol/EMI, 1999, box set): This four-disc set features the highlights from the span of Rogers’s career. It included everything from early work with The Scholars and New Edition to the classic “The Gambler” and the late-period oddity “Planet Texas.”
Born: Kenneth Ray Rogers, August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas. Died: March 20, 2020, Sandy Springs, Georgia, United States.