When you’ve been in the public eye for over 60 years and the biggest knock on you is “your chain of restaurants didn’t fare well in the US but they’re huge in Asia” you must have been doing something right.
Kenny Rogers died on March 20th, 2020 at the age of 81. He started performing in 1957 and continued until his official retirement in 2017. During that time he topped both the pop and country charts for over 200 combined weeks (or if you prefer he was #1 in the country for over 4 years combined) and sold over 100 million albums.
Rogers was known for his music and his sense of humor about himself, which he famously displayed in this episode of Reno 911:
What was never talked about was Rogers’ commitment to helping others. He never sought the spotlight for his charitable works because he didn’t do it for the accolades, but his work in the early years of HIV/AIDS research and advocacy, his joining the fight for human rights around the globe (in particular in Asia where his restaurants gave him an unexpected voice), and his donations to support those who were unemployed or under employed, all of these were just part of who he was and why he was so beloved for so many years. He was the rare superstar who was absolutely earnest and unchanged by his worldwide celebrity.
I will leave you with my favorite video version of Kenny’s first big hit, one that most people don’t realize is him. Enjoy.