Kenny Rogers died in March 2020, two years after retiring from performing due to health problems. The Texas native was an incredibly successful singer in multiple genres including country and pop as well as an actor, entrepreneur, photographer, house flipper and philanthropist, but he told Southern Living in 2017 that his accolades aren't what he wanted to be remembered for.
"That I helped as many people as I could along the way throughout my career," he said when asked what he wants people to remember about him. "And some very special people that I've met." Along with what he wanted to be remembered for, Rogers shared his favorite memory with longtime friend Dolly Parton. Rogers revealed that the moment happened in 2013 when the two were recording their duet "You Can't Make Old Friends."
"I looked up at her and she wasn't at her microphone," he recalled. "She had left her microphone and came into my part of the studio. She put her arms around my neck and she said, 'Kenny, I think you should know I could never sing at your funeral.' I went, 'So we're assuming I'm going first?' I love her for that. You never know what she's going to say, but it always comes from love. It's never anger and it's never revenge, it's always love."
After her friend's death, Parton paid tribute to him with a performance on CMT GIANTS Kenny Rogers: A Benefit For MusiCares, where she performed "Sweet Music Man." She also shared an emotional video discussing her reaction to Rogers' passing and opened up about their friendship during a virtual appearance on the TODAY show. "I knew he wasn't doing well, but it was just like, I lost someone so close to me, it just broke my heart," she said. "It just shocked me and I was very emotional about it for several days, and now I've kind of put it in a peaceful place, knowing that he's at peace. My words and love go out to his children and to Wanda, his wife, and to all his fans. I'll always miss him, but I'll always treasure what we had together."
Rogers died of natural causes under care of hospice surrounded by his family at his home in Georgia, where he had lived for years. Speaking with Southern Living, he reflected on what he loves most about the South, citing the people there as one of his favorite things. "There's something about people from the South, there's a genuineness about them," he explained. "They talk to you and you don't feel like they're talking to you for any other reason other than they really care about you and I love that." As for his favorite Southern food, Rogers named macaroni and cheese and his mom's pinto beans with rice.