Famed singer, songwriter, actor, and businessman Kenneth Ray Rogers died Friday. He was 81. Rogers was elected to the County Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
Rogers is best known as a country music star; but his career ran the gamut from country to pop to an early career that included jazz, folk, and rock and roll. Rogers charted more than 120 hit singles across various music genres. He topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone and sold over 100 million records worldwide during his lifetime.
Rogers was born in Houston, Texas in 1938 the fourth child of eight. His father was a carpenter and his mother was a nurse’s assistant.
Rogers began his recording career in the mid-1950s with the Houston-based group the Scholars. They released “The Poor Little Doggie”. Rogers then released some solo recordings including 1958’s “That Crazy Feeling.” Rogers joined a group with the jazz singer Bobby Doyle. Rogers also worked as a producer, writer and session musician for other performers, including Mickey Gilley and Eddy Arnold.
In 1966 he became a member of the folk ensemble the New Christy Minstrels in which he played double bass and bass guitar as well as was a singer. In 1967, he and several members of the New Christy Minstrels left to found the group the First Edition. They recorded his first major hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, a psychedelic rock song which peaked at number five on the Billboard charts. Rogers gradually took on more of a leadership role in the group and he moved the group to more of country sound, including 1969’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” The group was eventually renamed Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. The group had hits including: “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” “But You Know I Love You”, “Tell It All, Brother”, “Reuben James”, and “Something’s Burning”.
First Edition disbanded in 1976, and Rogers launched his solo career that bridged pop and country. Some of his early top singles included: “Love Lifted Me”, “While the Feeling’s Good”, “Runaway Girl,” “Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got).”
He scored a major hit with the single “Lucille” in 1977. It reached number one on the pop charts in 12 countries, selling over five million copies, and establishing Rogers as a superstar. More success followed, including the multi-platinum selling album The Gambler and another international Number 1 single, “Coward of the County.”
In the late 1970s, Rogers teamed up with close friend and Country Music legend Dottie West for a series of albums and duets. The duo won two gold records, two CMA Awards, an ACM nomination, two Grammy nominations and 1 Music City News Award for their two hit albums Every Time Two Fools Collide (No. 1) and Classics (No. 3). Their hits together “Every Time Two Fools Collide”, “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight”, “What Are We Doin’ in Love”, “All I Ever Need Is You”, and “Till I Can Make It On My Own.” West was killed in a car accident in 1991 at age 58. In 1995 he starred as himself, alongside Michele Lee as West, in the CBS biographical film Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story.
In 1980, he recorded as a duet with Kim Carnes, “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” and a duet with Lynda Carter “You and Me” in her television music special. He also partnered with Alabama legend Lionel Ritchie who wrote and produced Rogers’ No. 1 hit “Lady”. Richie also went on to produce Rogers’ 1981 album Share Your Love. Ritchie and Michael Jackson sang backup on Rogers’ hit “Goin back to Alabama.”
His first Christmas album was also released that same year. In 1982, Rogers released the album Love Will Turn You Around. The country music chart topping title song was the theme song of Rogers’ 1982 film Six Pack. In 1983, Rogers recorded “We’ve Got Tonight”, a duet with Sheena Easton.
Rogers work with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees who produced his 1983 hit album Eyes That See in the Dark, featuring “Islands in the Stream”, a duet with Dolly Parton. Rogers reunite with Parton in 1984 for a holiday album, Once Upon a Christmas and TV special Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember (which resulted in a popular video of “Christmas Without You”), as well as a 1985 duet “Real Love.” The two collaborated on occasional projects for years, including a 2013 duet single “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”
Rogers album What About Me? Featured the title track—a trio performance with James Ingram and Kim Carnes—was nominated for a Grammy Award; the single “Crazy” also topped the country charts. Rogers 1985 album The Heart of the Matter was another success. Hits including “Twenty Years Ago”, “Morning Desire”, “Tomb of the Unknown Love”, followed. In 1985 Rogers was one of the 45 artists who recorded the worldwide charity song “We Are the World” to support hunger victims in Africa. That was recorded at Rogers studio in Los Angeles.
In 1988, Rogers won a Grammy Award for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” with Ronnie Milsap—”Make No Mistake, She’s Mine”. Rogers recorded “The Factory” and “Crazy In Love”, “If You Want To Find Love”, and “The Greatest”. His second Christmas album, titled Christmas in America, was released in 1989 for Reprise Records. From 1991–94, Rogers hosted The Real West on A&E, with reruns playing on The History Channel since 1995.
Rogers co-owned and headlined Branson, Missouri’s 4,000 seat Grand Palace Theatre. In 1994, Rogers released his “dream” album titled Timepiece consisted of 1930s/1940s jazz standards, the type of music he had performed in his early days with Bobby Doyle. In 1996, Rogers released an album Vote For Love where the public requested their favorite love songs and Rogers performed the songs. Several of his own hits were in the final version.
In 1999, Rogers scored with the single “The Greatest”. In 1999, Rogers also produced a song, “We’ve Got It All”, specifically for the series finale of the ABC show Home Improvement. In 2000 he topped the country charts at age 61 with the single “Buy Me a Rose.”. Rogers released a new album, Water & Bridges, in March 2006. “I Can’t Unlove You” peaked at No. 17 on the country charts.
On April 10, 2010, a TV special was taped, Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years. Dolly Parton and Lionel Richie were among those set to perform with Rogers during a show celebrating his contribution to country, blues and pop music. In 2013, Rogers recorded a new album with the name You Can’t Make Old Friends. Rogers recorded 65 albums and sold over 165 million records. Rogers’ final concert in Nashville took place on October 25, 2017, at the Bridgestone Arena.
Rogers was also a successful actor. His 1982 he placed a racecar driver in the movie Six Pack. That movie took in more than $20 million at the box office. He starred in several made-for-TV movies such as The Gambler series, Christmas in America, and Coward of the County.
Rogers was married five times and had five children. His fifth marriage was to Wanda Miller on June 1, 1997. They had twin sons and were married for 22 years until his death.
Several artists made their big break in the business opening for Kenny Rogers including Garth Brooks and Montgomery’s Donica Knight.
“Anybody that grew up in the era that I grew up in, Kenny Rogers was a pop artist,” Brooks told Billboard Magazine. “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.”
“Kenny Rogers, by working with him, became one of my heroes,” Brooks said. “Just watching how he treated his band, his guys, everybody, they’d all been with him for 100 years. It was like, “This is how you do it.” I’m really, really thankful that Bob was smart enough to tell me to get on that tour. Then when it came time for entertaining, he was amazing.” “Off the road, he was always with his band and crew. They’d play basketball. They’d do everything. That strengthening, that treating it like a sports team and having team dinners and stuff was great. We have at least one, maybe two guys, off that tour with us because they were such high-quality people.”
“I just enjoyed how honest he was,” Brooks said. “He wasn’t a fake person. Who you saw on the stage was who you saw in sweats offstage.” “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.”
Country music fan and Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board member Perry O. Hooper Jr. issued a statement on Rogers’ passing.
“While it is a somber day for American music, and me personally, we all can rejoice in Kenny’s 20 Number 1 hits, three Grammys and his 60 years of touring,” Hooper said.
Hooper saw Rogers perform for the first time when Rogers was the lead singer for First Edition.
“I had the opportunity to watch them perform live their big number 1 hit ‘I Just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.’ at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum,” Hooper said. “Little did I know at the time that I was watching live a performer who would become an American icon.”
“It’s Ironic that some of his biggest hits were duets performed with legends such as Alabama Music Hall of Fame member Lionel Richie, Dollie Parton, Shenna Easton, and Ronnie Milsap,” Hooper continued. “He partnered for two years with country music star Dottie West whose show I was fortunate to catch once again at Garrett Coliseum.”
“In 2016 a year before he stopped touring, I was able to meet him,” Hooper said. “My friend Donica Knight was the opening act for his performance at Montgomery’s MPAC Theater and I met him backstage. He could not have been more gracious and down to earth He showed genuine interest in Donica’s career.”
“‘You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them’ Will go down as one of the most quoted lines in music history,” Hooper said. “He was one of the rare performers that was a success in three separate genres of music. Folk, Rock and Country. He may be gone but he will never be forgotten.“
America celebrates Independence Day
The United States celebrates its independence from Great Britain every year on July 4.
The United States celebrates its independence from Great Britain every year on July 4.
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress. This is a national and state holiday that is celebrated with fireworks, family gatherings, concerts of patriotic music and is traditionally the height of the summer holiday season.
The Declaration of Independence defined the rights of man and the relationship between government and the governed. It also stated the colonists grievances with the distant British government and explained why independence was both justified and necessary.
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation,” the Declaration reads.
The principal writer of the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Jefferson, who would go on to be the wartime governor of Virginia, vice president and the third president of the United States.
As brilliant as the Declaration of Independence is, independence was not won by words alone — but by the sacrifices of the men and women who sacrificed on and off the battlefields of Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill, Quebec, Charleston, Trenton, Saratoga, Valley Forge, Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Court House, Yorktown and countless more to win the nation’s independence.
That ragtag, often poorly equipped and underfed army was led by General George Washington. Washington would go on to be the head the Constitutional convention and the first president of the United States, serving two terms.
Both Washington and Jefferson are immortalized on Mount Rushmore as two of the greatest presidents.
An estimated 25,000 Americans were killed fighting the Revolutionary War. The British forces lost over 10,000 troops including many Americans who opposed independence and fought and died for the British crown. An estimated 58,000 crown Loyalists would leave this country over their loyalty to the British crown. Many of them settled in Canada.
“Today, we celebrate our Nation’s independence and the vision of our Founding Fathers revealed to the world on that fateful day, as well as the countless patriots who continue to ensure that the flames of freedom are never extinguished,” President Donald Trump said in the annual presidential July 4 message.
ADPH urges Alabamians to have “safer-at-home” July 4th celebrations
This year, amid a global pandemic, the Alabama Department of Public Health is urging Alabamians to celebrate at home to avoid catching or spreading the virus.
Saturday is the Fourth of July, a day when many families hold elaborate celebrations with their friends. It is a time for friends, family, fireworks, barbecue, celebrating our nation’s independence and enjoying the summer weather.
But this year, amid a global pandemic, the Alabama Department of Public Health is urging Alabamians to celebrate at home to avoid catching or spreading the virus.
“Independence Day is a wonderful celebration for all Americans,” the ADPH said on their website. “As we move toward this major holiday, we want to share some recommendations and reminders for local governmental officials.”
The novel strain of the coronavirus is the largest pandemic to deeply impact this country in a century. At least 57,236 Americans were diagnosed with the virus on Thursday alone and 131,533 Americans have died, including 983 Alabamians.
A few simple steps can greatly reduce your chances of being exposed and exposing others to COVID-19. Everyone should practice good hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your face and wash hands often. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home, and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others not in your household.
The use of cloth face coverings or masks when in public can greatly reduce the risk of transmission, particularly if the infected individual wears a mask. Many people are contagious before they begin to show symptoms — or may never develop symptoms but are still able to infect others.
The ADPH emphasized that there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, so the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warns that everyone should avoid large gatherings.
This CDC video explains more about how large gatherings can spread the virus.
According to ADPH, there are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses at this time.
There is ongoing medical research regarding treatment of COVID-19. Although most people will recover on their own, you can do some things to help relieve your symptoms, including taking medications to relieve pain and fever, using a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough and drinking plenty of fluids if you are mildly sick. Stay home and get plenty of rest.
Alabama is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases in the month of June and into early July.
The state reported at least 1,758 positive cases on Friday alone, the most since the pandemic began. In the past seven days, 7,645 cases have been reported, the most of any seven-day period since the pandemic began.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases — used to smooth out daily variability and inconsistencies in case reporting — surpassed 1,000 for the first time Friday.
Since the first coronavirus case was identified in Alabama in early March, 41,362 Alabamians have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Byrne secures authorization for additional Austal ship in NDAA
Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, this week announced that the House Armed Services Committee approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 by a vote of 56 to 0. The bill includes a Byrne amendment authorizing $260 million to construct an additional Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel at Austal Mobile. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote for passage.
“Today’s defense authorization bill received strong bipartisan support and will ensure that the men and women of our military have the resources necessary to protect American interests and safety,” Byrne said. “Like most legislation, the bill isn’t perfect, but the committee’s willingness to work together towards a common goal should be a template for the entire House of Representatives to follow.”
“It is great news for Southwest Alabama and our entire nation that the committee accepted my amendment to authorize the construction of an additional EPF at the Austal shipyard in Mobile,” Byrne said. “Passage of this amendment acknowledges the critical role the 4,000 men and women at Austal Mobile play in supporting our nation’s military readiness and moving us closer to our goal of a 355-ship fleet. In fact, just this week we reached a landmark when the Austal-built USS Oakland LCS was delivered to the Navy, becoming the 300th ship in our Navy’s fleet. Construction of an additional EPF will strengthen Austal’s footprint in Mobile and bolster its contributions to our national defense, and I hope Congress moves quickly to pass this bill into law.”
The NDAA sets policy and authorizes funding for the entire United States military and has been passed by the House each year for the previous 59 years. The bill is expected to receive a vote in the House as soon as this month.
An Expeditionary Fast Transport is a 338-foot shallow draft aluminum catamaran designed to be multi-mission capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo lift, providing combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility with inherent cargo handling capability and agility to achieve positional advantage over operational distances. Bridging the gap between low-speed sealift and high-speed airlift, EPFs transport personnel, equipment and supplies over operational distances with access to littoral offload points including austere, minor and degraded ports in support of the Global War on Terrorism/Theater Security Cooperation Program, Intra-theater Operational/Littoral Maneuver and Sustainment and Seabasing. EPFs enable the rapid projection, agile maneuver and sustainment of modular, tailored forces in response to a wide range of military and civilian contingencies such as Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. It is a non-combatant transport vessel characterized by its high volume, high speed, and flexibility. Its large flight deck can accommodate a variety of aircraft.
The EPF is designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots in Sea State 3. The ships are capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2). The EPF includes a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that allow vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. The ramp is suitable for the types of austere piers and quay walls common in developing countries. The ship’s shallow draft (under 15 feet) will further enhance littoral operations and port access. This makes the EPF an extremely flexible asset for support of a wide range of operations including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support or as the key enabler for rapid transport.
EPF has a crew of 26 Civilian Mariners with airline style seating for 312 embarked troops and fixed berthing for an additional 104. Military Sealift Command (MSC) operates and sustains the EPFs, which will be allocated via the Global Force Management for Theater Security Cooperation, service unique missions, intra-theater sealift and special missions.
Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.
Supreme Court sides with Alabama in COVID-19 voting case
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision Thursday blocked a federal district judge’s order that would have made it easier for many Alabamians to vote during the pandemic, issuing an emergency stay of the lower court’s injunction in People First of Alabama v. Merrill.
The court’s more liberal justices dissented, while the five conservative justices voted to strike down the lower court ruling, which had blocked absentee ballot witness requirements in a few Alabama counties and a statewide ban on curbside voting programs.
The decision to grant the stay means that Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s ban on curbside voting remains in place, and he may intervene into any county in Alabama to prevent curbside voting.
Voters in every county in the state must still follow all the required witness, notary and photo ID requirements for absentee ballots.
Federal District Judge Abdul Kallon had found in favor of the plaintiffs and issued an order allowing local officials to implement curbside voting. Merrill and the secretary of state’s office appealed the lower court ruling to the Supreme Court, who issued the emergency stay.
The court could still hear Alabama’s appeal, but the ruling was a blow for the groups representing the plaintiffs in the case. Caren Short is the senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“While we are deeply disappointed with today’s ruling, we look forward to presenting our clients’ case at trial later this summer,” said Short. “Our goal is simple though unfortunately at odds with Alabama officials. We want to ensure that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama voters will not be forced to choose between exercising their fundamental right to vote and protecting their health or the health of a loved one.”
Deuel Ross is the senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court‘s stay,” said Ross. “Unfortunately, this means that Alabama voters who are at greater risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 will be required to risk their health and violate CDC recommendations in order to vote on July 14. This is occurring at a time when COVID-19 infections are soaring in Alabama and nationwide. Nonetheless, the litigation will continue and we intend to seek relief for our clients and other voters in time for November.”
Plaintiffs argued that making voters go to the polls and wait in line to show a photo-ID would be a bar to voting given the fear of the coronavirus in Alabama. Voters will have to decide whether voting in the July 14 party runoff elections is really worth the risk of possibly contracting the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and possibly dying.
At least 14 Alabamians died from COVID-19 on Thursday, taking the state death toll to 961. Additionally, 1,162 Alabamians tested positive for the coronavirus.
The state argues that voter ID and other security measures are necessary to protect the integrity of the vote and prevent voting fraud. Since his election as Alabama secretary of state, Merrill has said that it is his goal to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”