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 and face are 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 and is a recipient of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music.
Rogers 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 in 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 song (including “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Lucille,” “She Believes In Me,” “Through The Years,” and “Islands In The Stream”) and 12 No. 1 albums. Rogers’ 2011 release, The Love Of God, became his 21st Top 10 Country album. Two of Rogers’ albums, The Gambler and Kenny, are featured in the About.com poll of "The 200 Most Influential Country Albums Ever.”
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), 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 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, "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 in any format, 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 have exceeded 24 million).
He has continued his amazing run into the 21st century with a critically acclaimed album (Water and Bridges) and hit single, “I Can’t Unlove You,” produced by the award-winning Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Faith Hill); a gold record (21 Number Ones); and the singer’s first inspirational gospel album, The Love Of God. Released to critical acclaim in 2011, The Love Of God has been referred to by Rogers as “one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Never one to rest on his laurels, he recently finished his autobiography (scheduled for a fall 2012 release) and will begin recording a new album the summer of 2012.
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.
"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, the musician, the songwriter, the photographer, the producer, the actor, and of course...The Gambler.