“It was always music, he had uncles that played. He himself was highly musical,” Oermann says. Sandy says the star “sang all the time” and shared that she believes singing was always his true passion — ultimately, his musical talent became his golden ticket into a better life.

Rogers is missed by many, including one of his best friends Richie. “Today I lost one of my closest friends 💔,” he wrote on Instagram when news of Rogers’ death broke. “So much laughter so many adventures to remember, my heart is broken. My prayers go out to Kenny’s Family🙏.”

Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum — whose mother toured with the late musician as a backup singer and who later opened for Rogers with her own band — remembers the late artist as “truly the greatest.”

She previously told PEOPLE: “He was an incredible gift to the world through his decades-long career. Our family got to know his generosity, his kindness and his brilliance firsthand. My mom toured with him for years and Lady Antebellum got to open up for him in Switzerland, but he also opened so many doors for us on tour in Europe. His family and all of his friends are in my prayers as they grieve.”

Longtime friend Parton also shared her emotional thoughts at the time of Rogers’ death. “I know that we all know that Kenny’s in a better place than we are today, but I’m for sure he’s going to be talking to God some time today if he’s ain’t already, and going to be asking him to spread some light onto this darkness going on here,” she said. “But I loved Kenny with all my heart and my heart’s broken and a big ol’ chunk has gone with him today.”

The Biography: Kenny Rogers special on the entertainer’s incredible life airs on A&E Monday, April 13 at 9 p.m. local time.

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