Rogers was born the fourth of eight children on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas to Lucille Lois (1910–1991), a nurse’s assistant, and Edward Floyd Rogers (1904–1975), a carpenter.
Rogers began a recording career dating back to the 1950s,he had a minor solo hit in 1957 called That Crazy Feeling and after sales slowed down, joined a jazz group, The Bobby Doyle Three, who recorded for Colombia Records,however they disbanded in 1965.
Rogers also worked as a producer, writer and session musician for other performers, including country artists Mickey Gilley and Eddy Arnold. In 1966 he joined the New Christy Minstrels as a singer and double bass player but he felt that they were not offering him the success he needed and so he left the group together with some fellow members,Mike Settle,Terry Williams and Thelma Camacho.Together,they formed the First Edition renamed Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.They were later joined by Kin Vassy. The band released a string of hits including Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), But You Know I Love You, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town, Tell It All, Brother, Reuben James, and Something’s Burning just to name a few.
The band disbanded in 1976 and Rodgers launched his solo career,signing a deal with United Artists. Producer Larry Butler and Rogers began a partnership that would last four years. Rogers first album with the label was Love Lifted Me and the song Runaway Girl from the album was featured in the motion picture Trackdown.
Later in 1976, Rogers issued his second album, Kenny Rogers, whose first single, Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got) became another hit.
His 1977 single Lucille was a major hit, reaching number one on the pop charts in 12 countries, selling over five million copies, and firmly establishing his career. On the strength of Lucille, the album Kenny Rogers reached No. 1 in the Billboard Country Album Chart. More success was to follow, including the multi-platinum selling album The Gambler and another international Number 1 single, Coward of the County, taken from the equally successful album, Kenny. In 1980, the Rogers/Butler partnership came to an end, though they would occasionally reunite: in 1987 on the album I Prefer the Moonlight and again in 1993 on the album If Only My Heart Had a Voice.
In the late 1970s, Rogers teamed up with close friend and Country Music legend Dottie West for a series of albums and duets. Together the duo won 2 gold records (1 of which later went platinum), 2 CMA Awards, an ACM nomination, two Grammy nominations and 1 Music City News Award for their two hit albums Every Time Two Fools Collide and Classics , selling out stadiums and arenas while on tour for several years, as well as appearing on several network television specials.
Their hits together include Every Time Two Fools Collide, Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight , What Are We Doin’ in Love, All I Ever Need Is You and Till I Can Make It On My Own. Dottie West sadly died in a 1991 car accident at age 58.
In 1980, a selection he recorded as a duet with Kim Carnes, Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer, became a major hit. Later in 1980,he formed a partnership with Lionel Richie who wrote and produced Rogers’ No. 1 hit Lady. Richie went on to produce Rogers’s 1981 album Share Your Love, featuring hits such as I Don’t Need You and Share Your Love with Me. His first Christmas album was also released that same year and his second Christmas album, titled Christmas in America, was released in 1989 for Reprise Records.
In 1981, Rogers bought the old ABC Dunhill building and built one of the most popular and state-of-the-art recording studios in Los Angeles. The song We Are the World was recorded there and at A & M Records.
Rogers went on to work with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees who produced his 1983 hit album Eyes That See in the Dark, featuring the title track and yet another No. 1 hit Islands in the Stream, a duet with Dolly Parton which became the last country single to reach NO.1 on that chart until Amazed by Lonestar in 2000.It was also certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipping two million copies in the US. Gibb, along with his brothers, Robin and Maurice, originally wrote the song for Marvin Gaye in an R&B style, only later to change it for the Kenny Rogers album. The partnership with Gibb however only lasted one album, which was not surprising considering that Rogers’ original intention was to work with Gibb on only one song. Gibb insisted on doing the entire album together.
Rogers would reunite with Parton in 1984 for a holiday album, Once Upon a Christmas. The two would continue to collaborate on occasional projects through subsequent years, including a 2013 duet single You Can’t Make Old Friends.
In 1988, Rogers won a Grammy Award for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” with Ronnie Milsap — Make No Mistake, She’s Mine.
In 1999, Rogers scored with the single The Greatest, a song about life from a child’s point of view (looked at through a baseball game). The song reached the top 40 of Billboard’s Country singles chart and was a Country Music Television Number One video. It was on Rogers’ album She Rides Wild Horses the following year. In 1999, Rogers also produced a song, We’ve Got It All specifically for the series finale of the ABC show Home Improvement.
In 2000 , Rogers was back at No. 1 for the first time in more than a decade with the 2000 single Buy Me a Rose breaking a 26-year-old record held by Hank Snow for Hello Love. Rogers held the record until 2003, when then 70-year-old Willie Nelson became the oldest artist to have a No. 1 on the country charts with his duet with Toby Keith, Beer for My Horses.
Although Rogers did not record new albums for a couple of years, he continued to have success in many countries with more greatest hits packages. In 2004 42 Ultimate Hits, which was the first hits collection to span his days with the First Edition to the present, reached Number 6 on the American country charts and went gold. It also featured two new songs, My World Is Over with Whitney Duncan which had been released as a single and We Are the Same. In 2005 The Very Best of Kenny Rogers, a double album, sold well in Europe. It was the first new solo Kenny Rogers hits album to reach the United Kingdom for over a decade, despite many compilations there that were not true hits packages.
Rodgers continued to release more music and his songs remained top hits. He has recorded 65 albums and sold over 165 million records.
In 2015, Rogers announced his farewell tour, titled The Gambler’s Last Deal. He stated his intention to retire from touring at its completion. In announcing the tour, Rogers indicated at the time that his final tour appearance would be on NBC’s Today show.Concert dates were scheduled through 2018 and included visits to the United States, Australia, Scotland, Ireland, England, The Netherlands and Switzerland. On April 5, 2018, it was announced that Rogers canceled his remaining tour as advised by doctors due to a series of health challenges.
Rogers’ final concert in Nashville took place on October 25, 2017, at the Bridgestone Arena where he was joined by an array of guest artists. The concert also included a special appearance by long-time friend Dolly Parton, who performed You Can’t Make Old Friends and Islands in the Stream with Rogers for the final time.
Kenny Rogers was married five times and had five children. He married Janice Gordon on May 15, 1958; they divorced in April 1960 with one child. Rogers married Jean Rogers in October 1960 and divorced her in 1963. He married Margo Anderson in October 1964 and divorced her in 1976 with one child. Rogers married Marianne Gordon on October 1, 1977, and divorced her in 1993 with one child. Rogers married for the fifth and final time when he married Wanda Miller on June 1, 1997. The couple had twin sons together.
Rogers also had success as an actor. His 1982 movie Six Pack, in which he played a race-car driver, took more than $20 million at the United States box office, while made-for-TV movies such as The Gambler series, Christmas in America, and Coward of the County topped ratings lists.
Rogers says that photography was once his obsession, before it morphed into a passion. He has authored the photo books Kenny Rogers’ America 1986 and Your Friends and Mine 1987.
As an entrepreneur, he collaborated with former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown Jr. in 1991 to start up the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters.
From 1991–94, Rogers hosted The Real West on A&E, and reruns on The History Channel since 1995.
On March 20, 2020, Rogers died under hospice care at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, from natural causes, a representative for the singer said in a statement. Due to the national COVID-19 emergency, the family is planning a small private service at this time with a public memorial planned for a later date. He was 81.