'Go rest high brother': Keith Urban mourns, pays tribute to Kenny Rogers; more stars react
Across social media, friends and fans mourned country music legend Kenny Rogers.
Rogers, the smooth, Grammy-winning balladeer who spanned jazz, folk, country and pop with such hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on record and on TV, died Friday night. He was 81.
The Rogers family announced his death on Twitter. They said he died "peacefully" under hospice care at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia.
Keith Urban tweeted his respects to Rogers Saturday, thanking the singer "for decades of genre-bending music and collaborations - for making music that traveled the globe .. and songs that became common threads for people from all walks of life !!"
"Go rest high brother," Urban wrote.
Dolly Parton honored her "singing partner" with a video tribute on Twitter.
"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," Parton said in her video. "I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart's broken. A big ol' chunk of it has gone with him today."
Parton then got emotional as she held up a photo of her and Rogers.
"God bless you, Kenny, fly high straight into the arms of God," Parton said. "To the rest of you, keep the faith."
Blake Shelton remembered Rogers as always being a "kind and fun" person.
"I can’t express on Twitter the impact Kenny Rogers the artist and the man had on me. He was always very kind and fun to be around. Rest In Peace Gambler...," the "Austin" artist wrote.
And country artist Tanya Tucker issued a statement to honor Rogers.
"What a career, what a talent, what a legacy. Now this world is left with a big shadow, center stage where Kenny Rogers stood. No one else can take his place. Now he’s taken his place amongst the Heavenly stars. It’s a very sad day for all of us. But God is smiling. Rest easy my friend," she said.
Billy Ray Cyrus shared a photo of him, his daughter Miley, Parton and Rogers to Twitter.
“No one bridged the gap between country and pop more often and better than K.R. He will be missed but his music and diverse style of story-telling will live on forever," Cyrus captioned the photo.
The members of Alabama posted individual tributes to Rogers, with Jeff Cook calling him a "pioneer" and Randy Owen adding the singer was a "special treasure to country music and the world."
Bandmate Teddy Gentry said, "Last night we lost a friend and one of the classic voices that easily melted (country), rock and pop together in a way no one had done before. We will certainly miss you, Kenny."
Donny Osmond tweeted a thanks to Rogers "for the unforgettable music and light you shared with this world."
Chuck Woolery managed some gentle teasing in his remembrance of Rogers.
"There was a lot more to Kenny Rogers than met the eye," the game show host tweeted. "I mean that in a good way. He did have one outstanding problem, we laughed about it often. I used to tell him he was the only man I knew who could make 38 million a year and manage to spend 40 million a year. He did ya know.
Piers Morgan shared a photo of Rogers to express his sadness. "RIP Kenny Rogers, 81. What incredibly sad news. One of the all-time great country music stars & an utterly charming man," Morgan wrote.
Stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt shared his favorite memory of Rogers on Twitter.
"I was on an episode of 'Reno 911!' where I played a crazed stalker who shoots Kenny Rogers," Oswalt wrote. "The cast loved him, he told great stories, and was a joy to be around. And 'The Gambler' is a truly great song. #RIPKennyRogers."
Larry the Cable Guy took to Twitter to thank Rogers for his contributions to the music world. "Oh man Kenny Rogers just died," he wrote. "RIP Gambler. Thanks for all the great music."
Charlie Daniels also recognized the Rogers' music as classics that will continue to make an impact in the world.
"Thank you Kenny Rogers for being a part of our lives for so long. Your songs are woven into the fabric of our memories, classics, that will live on in the musical heart of a world that will miss you so much. Rest in peace Gambler," Daniels tweeted.
Many other country artists and those outside the genre also paid tribute to Rogers.
Bill Anderson reflected on the time he announced Rogers' induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“The world has lost a great artist and interpreter of songs. I had the honor of announcing his election to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and was thrilled when I realized how much it meant to him. Even after all the other honors he had won, he was truly excited about this one. His accomplishments will live forever," stated Anderson.
Richard Marx added: “I’m so sad to see Kenny Rogers go. He did so much for me as a young songwriter and we stayed friends for over 30 years. I’ll really miss him. May he rest easy."
David Bellamy, from the Bellamy Brothers, sent his thoughts to Rogers' family.
“Going back to the late 70s and early 80s, we played a lot of dates together. He was one of the first artists to have a stage in the round, in the middle of the arena. He was also an accomplished photographer, and he shot some portraits of Howard and me. We really got to know Kenny through the years and are thankful for the memories. Love and prayers to his family," said Bellamy.
Phil Vassar acknowledged Rogers' impact on his own life by calling him his "hero."
“Not just my hero, but my friend. Thank you for your guidance my brother. The world has lost the greatest storyteller," said Vassar.
Songwriter Steve Wariner remembered how amazing it was to have Rogers sing one of his songs.
“Hearing Kenny Rogers’ magnificent voice singing MY lyrics, my music, to ‘I’m Missing You,’ that was definitely a highlight! When KR sang that song, he OWNED it. What a talent and what a sweet man. Kenny, you certainly made this world a better place. Rest In Peace my friend," Wariner said.
Former "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks said Rogers was a great mentor to him while he was on the show.
“Kenny was one of those legendary smoky tenors. I was fortunate to have him be a mentor on ‘American Idol.’ He had such wise words for another aspiring whiskey tenor. Thanks Kenny for ‘Believing in me.’ My condolences to his family, Ken Jr and also the Butlers for helping him create such great music,” said Hicks.
Jenee Fleenor said it felt like country music lost an "old friend."
“The world and country music just lost a true treasure. Though I never met Kenny Rogers I was a big fan and one of my favorite recent songs of his was ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’ — another classic duet he did with Dolly. I think that’s what we all feel like in the country music community... like we all lost an old friend," she said.
"Dirty South" artist, Lucas Hoge, called Rogers an "icon" and shared his favorite song from the late superstar.
“An icon that will be missed by so many. He was an inspiration to me, I loved the way he delivered a song and crossed over so many genres. ‘The Gambler’ was my favorite song and feel blessed to have whiteness him being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He will live on in our hearts and with his music.”
Actor Jeffrey Wright shared a video of Rogers singing "She Believes in Me," and wrote "Nice rendition. Nice melody for the mind laying low. RIP Kenny Rogers."
And novelist Greg Olear mourned Rogers' death on Twitter, too, and shared how he first became acquainted with his music.
"This one hurts," he wrote.
When he was in fourth grade, Olear said he played "Kenny Rogers Gold" on repeat on his aunt's cassette deck.
"I've loved him ever since," he continued, noting a few of his favorite Rogers songs including "Lucille," which he called the "best."
The Country Music Association and the Recording Academy also honored the late artist.
“Kenny was one of those artists who transcended beyond one format and geographic borders,” said Sarah Trahern, chief executive officer of the CMA. “He was a global superstar who helped introduce country music to audiences all around the world.”
“As one of the first artists to successfully master the country/pop crossover, Rogers touched the lives of millions worldwide and led the way for many notable artists who followed. This is a great loss for the music industry, but his influence and legacy will continue," said Harvey Mason Jr., chair and interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy.
Across Twitter, fans reacted too by sharing the hash tag "RIPLegend," and recounting their memories of Rogers' music, some calling his songs a "staple" to their childhood.
Others simply tweeted lyrics to Rogers' hits including "Islands In The Stream," which he sang with Parton.
Rogers, who was born in Houston, was known for his husky voice and silver beard. He sold tens of millions of records, won three Grammys and was the star of TV movies based on “The Gambler” and other songs, making him a superstar in the ‘70s and ’80s. Rogers thrived for 60 years before retired from touring in 2017 at age 79. Despite his crossover success, he always preferred to be thought of as a country singer.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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