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Kenny Rogers, country music icon, dead at 81

Kenny Rogers, a longtime star of country music, died Friday night, according to a statement posted by his family. He was 81.

Known for such hits as “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Islands in the Stream,” and “Lucille,” Rogers died peacefully at home in Sandy Springs, Ga., of natural causes at 10:25 p.m., the statement said.

Rogers later developed “The Gambler” into a series of television movies in which he starred.

In all, Rogers had 24 No. 1 hits and was the winner of six CMA Awards and three Grammys, the family’s statement said.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and in 2013 he received the Country Music Association’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, according to Variety.

Early in his career, Rogers led the band Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, whose hits included the Mel Tillis-written song, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”

Born in Houston, Rogers was raised in public housing along with seven siblings. He had his first gold single at age 20 with a song called “That Crazy Feeling.”

Prior to The First Edition, Rogers sang with the New Christy Minstrels in the 1960s. After The First Edition disbanded in 1974 he launched his enormously successful solo career.

His duet hit “Islands in The Stream,” sung with Dolly Parton, grew from a suggestion by Bee Gees star Barry Gibb, who wrote the song, according to The Associated Press.

Until that point, Rogers hadn’t been thrilled with the song. But then Parton joined him in the recording studio.

“From the moment she marched into that room, that song never sounded the same,” Rogers said, according to the AP. “It took on a whole new spirit.”

Last May, Rogers was admitted to a Georgia hospital for dehydration, amid rumors that his overall health was failing.

In 2018, health problems prompted Rogers to call off shows during what was billed as his farewell concert tour.

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“Kenny Rogers has been working through a series of health challenges and has been advised to cancel all performances through the end of the year to focus on recuperation,” a statement from the singer’s management said at the time.

“I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” Rogers was quoted as saying. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years on ‘The Gambler’s Last Deal’ tour.”

Fox News’ Jessica Napoli and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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