If it wasn't for Kenny Rogers, Don Henley might have never even joined the Eagles, let alone have more than five decades of success in music. Henley credits Rogers with helping get his career started, which is why it was so important to him to visit with the country music icon one last time before he passed away.
"Kenny had been struggling with a number of health issues for some time. He fought the good fight for as long as he could, but he was tired, and he was ready to make his exit," Henley told Rolling Stone. "I'm just grateful that I got visit with him in the hospital, about six weeks ago, and convey my gratitude to him for all he did for me. RIP, my friend. Thanks for all the gladness you gave us."
It was in the '60s, while Henley was in Shiloh, formed from one of Henley's earliest bands, that Rogers got involved, producing the group's debut album, which ultimately led to Henley collaborating with Glenn Frey.
"Fifty years ago, the Gambler took a gamble on me and my first band from small-town Texas, and his big-hearted support launched many careers, including mine," Henley said. "He also gave me some of the best career advice I ever got: 'You'd better be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you're going to meet those same people on the way back down.'"
Henley is grateful he got to know Rogers not only as the celebrity, but also as a family man and friend.
"In addition to his tremendous talent, Kenny was a generous and caring man, a wise mentor to so many of us. He loved his friends, his family, his fellow musicians and his fans, and they loved him, right back," Henley said.
Rogers passed away on Friday. He had been under hospice care at the time of his death. He is survived by five children, including 15-year-old twin sons, and his fifth wife, Wanda Miller. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the family is holding a private memorial. A public one will be held at a later date. To honor Rogers' memory, the family has asked that donations be made to the Recording Academy and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Photo Credit: Getty / Rick Diamond