Kenny Rogers began his recording career in the 1950s with the Scholars. After that, he performed with several other bands before finally tasting success with The Final Edition. When the band broke up in 1975, Rogers took his first steps toward solo success with his debut solo album, Love Lifted Me. His second album, Kenny Rogers, propelled him into the spotlight, signaling the start of one of the most successful and prolific careers in country music history. By the time he passed in 2020, Rogers had earned countless awards (including several Grammys) and sold over 100 million records worldwide. Here, we take a look back at the career of one of country music’s biggest stars with our pick of the 20 best Kenny Rogers albums.
In 1980, Rogers scored a major crossover success with his ninth studio album, Gideon. A concept album that looks back on the life of a cowboy, the album struck a chord with both country and pop audiences alike, reaching number 12 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the country charts. It’s since certified platinum in the US and double platinum in Canada. Chief highlights include the global smash hit Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer and the tender ballad Saying Goodbye.
19. Love Will Turn You Around
In 1982, Rogers scored a crossover hit with his thirteenth studio album, Love Will Turn You Around, which reached number 34 on the Billboard 200 and has since certified platinum in both the US and Canada. Key tracks to revisit include the title track, which earned Rogers a number one hit on its release as a single, and the equally lovely A Love Song.
18. I Prefer the Moonlight
I Prefer the Moonlight, Rogers’ twentieth studio album, may only have reached number 163 on the Billboard 200, but its material is as strong as ever, particularly on the singles The Factory and I Prefer the Moonlight. The star attraction is Make No Mistake, She’s Mine, a Grammy award-winning duet with Ronnie Milsap that reached number three in the charts.
17. Once Again It’s Christmas
Rogers released several Christmas albums over his career, and in 2015, he pulled another cracker out of the bag with Once Again It’s Christmas. Rogers’ warm vocals add an extra sparkle to festive standards like Little Drummer Boy and Winter Wonderland, while the duets with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and the always excellent Alison Krauss inject even more cheer into proceedings.
16. She Rides Wild Horses
By 1999, Rogers’ days as a guaranteed chart-topper were long behind him, but he was still as capable of delivering the goods as ever. His twenty-third studio album, She Rides Wild Horses, is a lovely affair, with a strong setlist and a wonderful vocal performance from Rogers. The album became his first chart success in eight years, peaking at number 26 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. The single, Buy Me a Rose, hit number one, making Rogers (who was 61 at the time) the oldest country artist in history to top the charts.
15. Something Inside So Strong
For his twenty-first studio album, Rogers’ called on some old pals, resulting in some lovely duets with Gladys Knight, Anne Murray, Holly Dunn, and Ronald Isley. Isley’s contribution on Love the Way You Do is particularly splendid. Released in 1989, the album went to number 10 on the country chart and number 141 on the Billboard 200.
14. They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To
They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To, Rogers’ nineteenth studio album, was released in October 1986 to a warm reception from fans. The album peaked in the top 20 on the country charts and also became a minor crossover hit, reaching number 137 on the Billboard 200. Its single, Twenty Years Ago, was also a success, climbing to number 2 on the country chart. Listen out for You’re My Love – it may be credited to “Joey Coco,” but the man behind that sweet melody is none other than Prince.
13. Daytime Friends
In 1977, Rogers’ consolidated on the success of his eponymous second album with Daytime Friends. It became a major crossover success, reaching number 2 in the country charts and number 39 on the Billboard 200. Its singles – Daytime Friends and Sweet Music Man – were equally successful, peaking at number one and number nine respectively.
Christmas, Rogers’ twelfth studio album and first Christmas album, is a fun, festive compilation of holiday standards like White Christmas, O Holy Night, and When a Child Is Born. Rogers’ rich vocals are perfectly suited to the material, resulting in an album filled with warmth and cheer. Released in 1981, it hit number 10 on the country charts and number 27 on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums.
11. Once Upon a Christmas
If you’re in need of some festive cheer this holiday season, take Once Upon a Christmas for a spin. Roger’s second Christmas album might not be groundbreaking, but it’s crammed with enough festive spirit for it not to matter. It’s also got Dolly Parton on board, which is never a bad thing. The album was a hit, winning the Canadian Country Music Association Award for Top Selling Album in 1985 and certifying double platinum.
10. Share Your Love
Rogers’ eleventh studio album, Share Your Love, was released in 1981 to a roaring reception. In addition to topping the US and Canadian country charts, it also reached the top of the US Adult Contemporary chart and number 3 on the Hot 100. It’s subsequently been certified platinum in the US and double platinum in Canada. Internationally, it’s sold over nine million copies, becoming one of Rogers’ biggest selling albums of all time.
9. Water and Bridges
In 2006, Rogers earned a late-career hit with his twenty-sixth studio album, Water and Bridges, which reached number 5 on the US country charts and number 14 on the Billboard 200. Described by countrystandardtime.com as a “graceful album that will certainly please both Rogers’ many longtime fans and contemporary country listeners,” the album finds Rogers sticking to his usual brand of slick, soft country music. Given how well he does it, no one’s going to complain about the lack of experimentation. Standout tracks include the contemplative title track, the heartbreaking pop song I Can Feel You Drifting, and the wonderful Someone Somewhere Tonight.
8. We’ve Got Tonight
Rogers’ 14th studio album (and his last with Liberty Records before he switched to RCA Records) is We’ve Got Tonight. Released in 1983, it became an international hit, reaching No. 3 on the US country chart, No. 18 on the Billboard 200, and No. 19 in Canada. It’s subsequently been certified platinum in both the US and Canada. The material is consistently strong, with the titular cut (which was performed as a duet with Sheena Easton) becoming a number one smash. It’s since been named as one of Rogers’ best ever songs by the LA Times and numerous other publications. The other singles (All My Life and Scarlet Fever) all reached the top 5 in the country chart. The real showstopper, however, is You Are So Beautiful: despite never being released as a single, it’s become one of Rogers’ most enduringly popular songs.
7. You Can’t Make Old Friends
Rogers’ twenty-seventh and final studio album of original material was released in October 2013. There’s enough here to keep fans of both his country side and pop side equally happy. Highlights include the Dolly Parton duet, You Can’t Make Old Friends (which might not be quite as good as their earlier duet, Island of the Stream, but is too sweetly melodious for it to matter), and the wonderfully emotive, You Had to Be There.
6. Love Lifted Me
After The First Edition broke up, Rogers took the first steps on his path to becoming a megastar with his debut solo album, Love Lifted Me. It outperformed expectations considerably, reaching number 28 on the country charts and scoring a crossover hit with the gospel inflicted titular track, which reached number 19 on the country charts and number 97 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Rogers ended the 1970s on a high note with his eighth studio album, Kenny. As All Music says, if any album helped Rogers free himself from the pigeonhole of being a country singer and become the middle-of-the-road pop star he was always destined to be, it was this. Released in September 1979, it topped the country charts in both Canada and the US and landed a number 5 spot on the Billboard 200. It also fared well internationally, reaching the top 10 in the UK and the top 20 in Australia. Highlights include the lovely hit single, You Decorated My Life, and the Gambler-esque, Coward of the Country.
4. Kenny Rogers
After achieving a minor success with his solo debut album, Love Lifted Me Up, Rogers’ career went stratospheric with the release of his eponymous second album. Released in January 1977, it soared to the top of the country charts, becoming the first of 12 number one hits for the singer. It was also a massive success on the other side of the pond, reaching number one on the UK Album Chart. Its singles were similarly successful – the first, Laura (What He’s Got That I Ain’t Got?), peaked at number 19 on the country charts, while the second, Lucille, climbed to the top of the country charts in both the US and Canada, while also earning Rogers’ his first number five hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
3. Love Or Something Like It
Rogers’ fifth studio album was a major success, topping the country charts to become his fourth number one album. Only one single was released – the chart-topping titular track – but considering the strength of the material, he could have had a hit with almost any song on the tracklist. The songs may be poppier than Rogers’ previous releases, but there are still enough traditional country tunes to keep the purists happy.
2. Eyes That See in the Dark
In 1983, Rogers enlisted Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees to produce his 15th studio album, Eyes That See in the Dark. Gibb also wrote most of the material, including the hit duet with Dolly Parton, Islands in the Stream, which hit number 1 on the Billboard pop, country, and adult contemporary charts and ended 1983 as the number one country chart song of the year. The song was subsequently certified platinum in the US after selling over 2 million copies. Other highlights include the number 3 hit, Buried Treasure, and the title cut, which spent six weeks in the UK Singles Chart.
1. The Gambler
If any album established Rogers as one of the most popular and successful country artists of the 1970s and 1980s, it was The Gambler. Released as his sixth studio album in November 1978, the album topped the country charts in both Canada and the US and hit number 12 on the Billboard 200 – one of his highest ever entries on the chart. Both the title track and She Believes in Me became major crossover hits, helping Rogers achieve as much of a foothold with pop audiences as with country ones. Its appeal even extended beyond music, with Rogers later starring in a string of made-for-TV movies based on the title cut’s central character.