Don Henley paid tribute to Kenny Rogers — the country star who helped the future Eagles singer land his first record contract — in a statement to Rolling Stone Saturday following the death of “the Gambler” at the age of 81.
“In addition to his tremendous talent, Kenny was a generous and caring man, a wise mentor to so many of us. He loved his friends, his family, his fellow musicians and his fans, and they loved him, right back,” Henley said.
In the late-Sixties, Rogers took the Texas band Shiloh, featuring Henley, under his wing, leading the group to sign with Amos Records and producing their self-titled debut album in 1970; soon after, Henley would begin collaborating with another artist signed to the Amos label, Glenn Frey.
“Fifty years ago, the Gambler took a gamble on me and my first band from small-town Texas, and his big-hearted support launched many careers, including mine,” Henley continued. “He also gave me some of the best career advice I ever got: ‘You’d better be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you’re going to meet those same people on the way back down.’”
Henley would later appear on Rogers’ 2006 song “Calling Me,” and performed at Rogers’ 2017 farewell concert in Nashville. Rogers also covered the Eagles’ “Desperado,” co-written by Henley and Frey:
“Kenny had been struggling with a number of health issues for some time. He fought the good fight for as long as he could, but he was tired, and he was ready to make his exit,” Henley told Rolling Stone.
“I’m just grateful that I got visit with him in the hospital, about six weeks ago, and convey my gratitude to him for all he did for me. RIP, my friend. Thanks for all the gladness you gave us.”