Like his 1981 song promised, Kenny Rogers went out in a blaze of glory Wednesday night in Nashville. The Country Music Hall of Fame member was honored at All in for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration, an all-star concert featuring performances of the smooth country-pop vocalist’s most famous hit.
Chris Stapleton sang “The Gambler,” Lionel Richie appeared to re-create “Lady,” Little Big Town delivered “Through the Years” and Jamey Johnson brought the house down with his reading of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” Rogers’ hit with his band the First Edition.
But the undeniable highlight was the pairing of Dolly Parton with Rogers. Appearing onstage after Stapleton’s faithful take on Don Schlitz’s “Gambler,” Parton had an ace up her sleeve: a surprise performance of “I Will Always Love You,” which visibly moved her onetime duet partner. Collecting himself, Rogers then joined Parton on their crossover smash “Islands in the Stream.”
Rolling Stone Country caught up with Rogers prior to the concert to talk about his decision to retire, his fandom of Stapleton and his long-standing relationship with Parton.
All in for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration was staged by Blackbird Presents, who have also organized tributes to legends like Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. All in for the Gambler was filmed to air at a later date.