When Kenny Rogers ruled Glastonbury with a singalong of 'Islands in the Stream' and more iconic country hits

16 August 2021, 16:51

Kenny Rogers thanking the Glastonbury Festival crowd on 30th June 2013. (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
Kenny Rogers thanking the Glastonbury Festival crowd on 30th June 2013. (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

Glastonbury Festival's legend slot is one of the most watched performances across the festival's weekend.

Over the years, legends such as Johnny Cash, Barry Gibb, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, Lionel Richie, Dame Shirley Bassey, and Al Green have taken to the famed Pyramid Stage.

For the most part, the icons of popular music that perform on the Sunday afternoon slot bring in bigger audiences than even the headliners can.

Read more: 8 fascinating facts about Kenny Rogers

In 2013, however, it was country icon Kenny Rogers' turn to write his own chapter into Glastonbury folklore.

Though, his hour-long performance got off to a slow start due to a likely partied-out crowd, and Kenny admitting that this was a new environment for him.

"What's wrong with this picture? Glastonbury and Kenny Rogers? I'm so far out of my comfort zone."

Though, with his bevy of iconic country tunes he was soon calling the shots, and by the time he started playing 'Through The Years' he had the 80,000 strong crowd in his pocket.

Read more: Kenny Rogers offered Willie Nelson ‘The Gambler’ first, but he turned it down

At the age of 74, the Grammy Award-winning artist's voice was as strong and characterful as ever, especially on the likes of 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)', 'Have a Little Faith in Me', and 'Lady'.

Kenny Rogers playing the legends slot at Glastonbury Festival, 2013. (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
Kenny Rogers playing the legends slot at Glastonbury Festival, 2013. (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Showing his wry sense of humour and rapport with the crowd, he even teased them about their singing (or lack of) during 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town'.

"That's so bad. Nevermind, I'll do it myself!" Kenny joked with a huge smile on his face.

By the time he got to classics like 'The Gambler' and 'Lucille', he couldn't stop them from chanting every word back at him:

"So now you want to sing! But for God's sake stop swaying. You look like thousands of Ray Charleses."

To cap off a terrific set, he finished with 'Islands In The Stream' and received a rapturous response.

Performing his Dolly Parton duet with an upbeat tempo, Kenny mirrored the energy of the masses coming to watch him. And the crowd got exactly what they came for.

Read more: The Story of... 'Islands in the Stream' by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

Lifelong friend Dolly would also go on to perform the song a year later in 2014, as she occupied the iconic legends slot herself.

Kenny ended his Glastonbury set with an encore of 'The Gambler' and 'Islands In The Stream', because when you're an icon of his stature, you can do what you want and people love you all the more for it.

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton performing together in New York City, 1985. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton performing together in New York City, 1985. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

After his beloved Worthy Farm set, Kenny described the performance as one of his "top five experiences".

"There is so much energy when you get out there, and I'm lucky to have had the type of songs that people love to singalong with."

Read more: Grammys: Lionel Richie pays tribute to friend Kenny Rogers in emotional performance of 'Lady'

Five years later in 2018 Kenny would retire from the public eye due to his battle with bladder cancer, that he tragically succumbed to in March of 2020.

His fans from far and wide will still be singing his songs for years to come, there's no doubt about it.