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Garth Brooks Meditates On The Passing Of Kenny Rogers

Gettyimages | Kevork Djansezian
By Lynne Versluys

The Death of an Icon

Gettyimages | Luciano Viti

Kenny Rogers, legendary singer of country songs like "The Gambler" and "Islands In The Stream," died on Friday at the age of 81. According to the statement from his family, he "passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family."

Rogers wrapped up his farewell tour in 2017, and officially retired in April 2018 due to "health challenges." He said at the time:

"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. I could never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career and the happiness I’ve experienced as a result of that."

Now that Rogers has said a forever goodbye to the world, many are remembering all that he accomplished over his life, including fellow country music star Garth Brooks, who wrote an op-ed for Billboard.

Garth Brooks Remembers His Mentor

Gettyimages | Jesse Grant

Brooks wrote about Rogers' influence on his life and how he paved the way for a crossover music career.

"Anybody that grew up in the era that I grew up in, Kenny Rogers was a pop artist. Kenny would tell you if he stood in front of a country crowd, he felt so pop, and if he stood in front of a pop crowd, he felt so country. It wasn’t like Kenny Rogers was one of my heroes. But giving the [opening slot] in the northeast to somebody in a cowboy hat was an opportunity that [Brooks’ manager] Bob Doyle said, 'You do not want to miss. There’s no other way you’re going to get up there.'

"There was no way you could be around him and not learn something. He was one of the most successful artists on the planet. If you want to do record sales, look at 'The Gambler' and go, 'Oh, okay, you can sell that many?' Because I think that sold something stupid like 13 or 14 million. It sure showed all of us that country artists can do this as well."

He Was An Incredible Performer

Gettyimages | Kevin Winter

Brooks continued, explaining how Rogers' incredible stage presence made him a once in a lifetime performer.

"Then when it came time for entertaining, he was amazing," he said. "He has his [stage] in the round. He had a microphone with a cord on it because that’s what he felt comfortable with. The cord went to this wireless unit that went around the stage with him and he’d use it as a prop. If he would forget a word, he would look at the cord and push it around like his mic went out. He’d put it out in the crowd. He used it like a musician would an instrument and so you watched him and you watched him closely. I can’t think of anybody who taught me that much about entertaining other than Reba McEntire. Those two people were the ultimate entertainers and you learned every day from them."

Kenny's Legacy

Gettyimages | Kevin Winter

Brooks also shared some poignant advice that Rogers gave him early on in his career and how he has cared that with him through the decades.

"The advice he gave me was to enjoy myself when I was out there. You tell me, was that not the best piece of advice ever? One of the first things we did was Westbury [N.Y.] Music Fair. Westbury was a place in the round and he’d sold I don’t know how many nights out there. We were there, camped in. We would go on [and] some nights it was three songs, some nights it was five songs, you just had to be ready to do whatever, whenever. He would do his show. We would stay after and all those people who came to see Kenny Rogers, we would be in the lobby signing autographs and taking pictures for anybody who wanted to stop.

He found out and the next day, he came up to me and said, 'Hats off to you. That’s the smartest thing. They may come here to see someone else, but they’re going to leave here knowing the new guy.'"

Rogers certainly left an indelible mark on the music business and in the hearts of fans, and it's good to see that legacy recognized.

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