Jason Aldean joined the chorus of country music singers sending their condolences to the family of Kenny Rogers. The country music legend died on Friday night at 81, his family announced early Saturday. Aldean, who previously said Rogers was the first artist he saw in concert, wrote Saturday that Rogers "forever changed the game."
"I woke up this morning to the news that Kenny Rogers passed away," Aldean wrote on Instagram, next to a black and white photo of Rogers. "The first concert I ever attended was his back in the early 80’s and it forever changed my life. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him a few times over the years and I am so grateful to have spent a few moments with him. He was an icon that helped bring in a whole new audience to country music and he forever changed the game for all of us. He will always be missed and remembered."
Aldean, 43, added at the end, "R.I.P. Gambler." He referred to Rogers' signature song, the 1978 hit "The Gambler."
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Rogers died at 10:52 p.m. Friday night in hospice care, surrounded by his family. There will be a small private service for Rogers' family. A public memorial will be held at a later date, but planning is delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. "They look forward to celebrating Kenny's life publicly with his friends and fans at a later date," Rogers' family's statement reads.
When CMT put together a list of the all-time best country singers in 2014, musicians put Rogers at No. 36. Aldean joined Luke Bryan, Bully Currington and Darius Rucker to praise Rogers' influential singing style as an important part of his success.
"Kenny Rogers was the first concert I ever went to," Aldean said in 2014. "Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers were the opening act, and I remember my mom taking me to see them when I was probably 4 or 5 years old. And at the time, Kenny Rogers was one of the biggest stars on the planet."
"Kenny Rogers is the definition of cool," Bryan, now a judge on American Idol, said at the time. "That little silver microphone and that white suit, that white hair and white beard, I mean he was just, crazy. What a figure, what an amazing person to watch, the whole deal."
Countless other country artists took to social media to mourn Rogers, including Dolly Parton, who famously performed "Islands in the Stream" with him. Parton shared a brief video about Rogers and a statement. She called him a "wonderful man and a true friend."
"I couldn't believe it this morning when I got up and turned on the TV checking to see what the coronavirus was doing and they told me that my friend, and singing partner, Kenny Rogers had passed away," Parton said in the video. "And I know that we all know Kenny's in a better place than we are today. But, I'm pretty sure he's gonna be talking to God some time today if he ain't already and he's gonna be asking him to spread some light in light of this darkness going on here."
Rogers, who joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015, toured through early 2018 before canceling dates due to health concerns. His final album, Once Again It's Christmas, was released in 2015.
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