You picked a fine time to leave us, Kenny.
Kenny Rogers, the appealing, gritty voice behind such ’70s and ’80s pop and country hits as “The Gambler,” “Lucille” and “Islands in the Stream,” died Friday night at age 81.
Rogers, “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” a rep for the singer told Variety. The star, who announced his retirement in 2017, was hospitalized for dehydration last spring.
In deference to the COVID-19 emergency, the family is holding a small, private service, with a public memorial planned for a later date.
In his career, Rogers racked up 20 solo country hits between 1977 and 1987. His most popular crossover hits were “Lady” in 1980 and “Islands in the Stream,” a duet with Dolly Parton from 1983.
The songstress took to Twitter Saturday morning to honor Rogers.
“I know that we all know that Kenny is in a better place than we are today and I’m pretty sure that he’s going to be talking to God sometime today… and he’s going to be asking him to spread some light on a bunch of this darkness. I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart’s broken. A big ol’ chunk of it has gone with him today.”
“God bless you Kenny, fly high straight into the arms of God,” Parton said. “To the rest of you, keep the faith.”
Parton captioned the clip, “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.”
Other celebrities flocked to Twitter to express their sadness including Brian Wilson, Poison drummer Rikki Rockett, country music stalwart Travis Tritt and Lee Greenwood.
Texas Republican Ted Cruz posted a clip of Rogers’ music video for “The Gambler” and noted, “Farewell to the great Kenny Rogers, whose 81 years brought joy, inspiration & comfort to millions. As I kid, I used to stand on my bed singing his songs for hours. We’ll miss you Kenny. RIP.”
Journalist Dan Rather eulogized: “Kenny Rogers had a voice and spirit that brought a sense of harmony to the world. He was that island in the stream. At a time when the waters churn, he will be especially missedRIP.”
Though best known for his musical abilities, Rogers was a true Renaissance man: he also was a successful actor, photographer, entrepreneur (he founded the chain Kenny Rogers’ Roasters) as well as a writer — publishing a memoir “Luck or Something Like It” in 2012 and a novel, “What are the Chances,” in 2013.
He was married five times, each time without a prenuptial agreement, meaning he often had to file for bankruptcy when the relationships ended. His final marriage, to Wanda Miller, lasted 15 years until his death. The couple have identical twin 15-year-old sons together.