Legendary country singer Kenny Rogers dies at 81

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Kenny Rogers, left, and Dolly Parton walk the red carpet of the “All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration” at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Laura Roberts/Invision/AP)

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Kenny Rogers, whose legendary music career spanned nearly six decades, has died at the age of 81, his publicist Keith Hagan told CNN.

The artist’s family announced his passing on Rogers’ verified Twitter account, saying he died Friday night from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by family.

“Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music. His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world,” a statement posted by Hagan says.

Rogers was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, for what organization officials called a “distinctive, husky voice.”

He had 24 No. 1 hits and through his career more than 50 million albums sold in the US alone.

He was a six-time Country Music Awards winner and three-time Grammy Award winner, Hagan said.

“Country Music has lost the great Kenny Rogers, who has forever left a mark on Country Music’s history,” the Country Music Association said in a statement. “His family and friends are in our thoughts during this difficult time.”

Some of his hits included “Lady,” “Lucille,” “We’ve Got Tonight,” “Islands In The Stream,” and “Through the Years.”

His 1978 song “The Gambler” inspired multiple TV movies, with Rogers as the main character.

In 1985, he participated in the original recording of “We Are the World” along with more than three dozen artists. A year later, according to his website, he co-chaired “Hands Across America,” a campaign which sought to raise awareness about the homeless and hungry in the US.

In 2015, Rogers announced his retirement.

“I’ve been so lucky to have enjoyed such a long career and to have such amazing support from my fans and all who have helped me along the way, but there comes a time when I need to focus on spending time with my family,” he had said, according to his official website.

“My life is about my wife and my 11-year-old twin boys right now. There are a lot of things I want to do together with them to create some special memories. I don’t have a bucket list of my own … I have a bucket list of things I want to do with them.”

Rogers’ family plans a small, private service out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic, “but look forward to celebrating the life of Kenny Rogers publicly with his friends and fans at a later date,” his publicist’s statement said.

Tributes to the country singer poured in from fans on social media.

Chuck Woolery, the American game show host, paid tribute Saturday on Twitter, writing: “Kenny Rogers and I have known each other and have been friends since the 60’s. We will all miss that great voice.”

Comedian Patton Oswalt — who starred with Rogers in an episode of the TV show “Reno 911!” — praised him and his music.

Oswalt tweeted: “The cast loved him, he told great stories, and was a joy to be around. And ‘The Gambler’ is a truly great song.”

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In a private ceremony at the home of the groom, singer-songwriter Kenny Rogers is married to TV actress Marianne Gordon, Oct. 3, 1977 in Los Angeles. Congratulating the couple immediately after the ceremony is the Reverend James Davidson, father of singer John Davidson, who performed the marriage. From left: John Davidson, Glen Campbell, Marianne Gordon, Rogers, and John Denver. (AP Photo)
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American singing star Kenny Rogers arrives at London’s Heathrow airport with his two favorite ladies – his bride of a few weeks, television star Marianne Gordon, left, and singer Crystal Gayle – for a concert tour, Nov. 4, 1977. Crystal will be appearing on all dates with Kenny, whose million selling single “Lucille” has just been voted Best Song of the Year at the Country Music Awards in Nashville. (AP Photo/Press Association)
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Country singers Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle are shown at the Academy of Country Music Awards, April 28, 1978 in Los Angeles. The two were named top male and female vocalists of the year. Rogers also received three other awards for best single record, song of the year, and album of the year. (AP Photo)
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Country singer Kenny Rogers, center, has it all on a roll of the dice as he tosses the ivorys at Regine’s in New York, March 22, 1979. Flanking Rogers are his wife Marianne, right, and Red Buttons, left, at a party following his concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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American singing star Kenny Rogers arrives at London’s Heathrow airport with his two favorite ladies – his bride of a few weeks, television star Marianne Gordon, left, and singer Crystal Gayle – for a concert tour, Nov. 4, 1977. Crystal will be appearing on all dates with Kenny, whose million selling single “Lucille” has just been voted Best Song of the Year at the Country Music Awards in Nashville. (AP Photo/Press Association)
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Kenny Rogers performs at American Music Awards in Los Angeles, Jan. 16, 1984. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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Kenny Rogers performs at the 2013 CMA Music Festival at the LP Field on Thursday, June 6, 2013 in Nashville,Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP)
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Kenny Rogers, left, and Dolly Parton walk the red carpet of the “All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration” at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Laura Roberts/Invision/AP)
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Kenny Rogers, left, and Dolly Parton share a few stories at “All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration” at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Laura Roberts/Invision/AP)
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Kenny Rogers, left, and Lionel Richie perform “Lady” at ACM Presents: Lionel Richie and Friends in Concert on Monday April 2, 2012 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari)
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Country music recording artist Kenny Rogers looks on before the start of a of a baseball game between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, Monday, July 21, 2014. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Kenny Rogers
FILE – In this Oct. 24, 2017 file photo, Kenny Rogers poses with his star on the Music City Walk of Fame in Nashville, Tenn. Actor-singer Kenny 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, March 20, 2020. He was 81. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
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Kenny Rogers poses with his wife, Wanda Miller, and sons Justin, left, and Jordan, right, both 13, at the Music City Walk of Fame Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Kenny Rogers, winner of the Willie Nelson lifetime achievement award, poses backstage at the 47th annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
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FILE – In this Sept. 4, 2013 file photo, Kenny Rogers poses for a portrait at The Hot Seat in Nashville, Tenn. Rogers long ago cemented his legacy in the world of popular music, and we’ll get another reminder of this on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, when he’s finally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with Bobby Bare and the late “Cowboy” Jack Clement. Many believe Rogers’ induction is years late since few did as much to spread country music beyond its once rural borders. (Photo by Donn Jones/Invision/AP, File)
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FILE – In this June 9, 2012, file photo, Kenny Rogers performs at the 2012 CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn. Actor-singer Kenny 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, March 20, 2020. He was 81. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP, File)
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Kenny Rogers speaks during a ceremony for the presentation of his star on the Music City Walk of Fame Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Rogers received the 80th star on the walk, one day before his farewell concert that’s scheduled to be held across the street in Bridgestone Arena. Behind Rogers are Joe Bonsall, left; Duane Allen, second from left; and William Lee Golden, right; of The Oak Ridge Boys. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Kenny Rogers performs during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Sunday, June 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
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FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, Kenny Rogers, winner of the Willie Nelson lifetime achievement award, poses backstage at the 47th annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn. Rogers said he is retiring from touring and will do one last worldwide farewell tour after five decades on the road. Rogers, 77, said in a video message on his website that he wants to spend more time with his two young sons and his wife, Wanda. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

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