Lionel Richie is still mourning the loss of his good friend, Kenny Rogers. The two were friends for 40 years, ever since Kenny recorded “Lady,” which was written by Lionel, and remained close until the Country Music Hall of Fame member passed away in March.
“When you start talking about K.R., Kenny Rogers, it’s like talking about a family member, or an older brother, or wise bird,” Lionel shared on the ABC special, Country Strong. “A great advisor. Probably one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met in my life.”
The American Idol judge recalled one moment when The Gambler proved how funny — and persistent — he could be.
“The funniest of all was, it was the Fourth of July. He invited me to come up to the farm, in Georgia, and I told him I couldn’t make it, because I’m having Fourth of July in Tuskegee, [Alabama], with my mom and dad, thank you very much,” Lionel recounted. “He said, ‘No, I want you to come up here, because we’ve got barbecue.’ I said, ‘No, Kenny, I’ve got it all down here. I’m gonna miss it this time.’
“Next thing I know, a helicopter is flying over the top of my house, with my mom and dad in the helicopter,” he continued. “He came down, picked me up, carried us all back to the farm in Georgia, and we had a barbecue — part of my barbecue in Alabama, and the rest of my barbecue at his farm in Georgia.”
Kenny passed away on March 20, just as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to be felt across the country, although Lionel admits he could use his friend and mentor now more than ever.
“He was just an all-around great guy,” Lionel shared. “I miss him so much, especially through this period that we’re going through right now. His life, starting out in Houston, Texas, was a tough beginning, and his attitude of how he got through it, and continued on through some very tough times in his life, I just loved his whole ability to smile and still keep that sense of humor about himself.”
Kenny was honored at the 2020 CMA Awards with a tribute by Little Big Town, singing “Sweet Music Man.”