The singer, who enjoyed hits with songs like "Coward of the County", "Lucille", "Lady" and "The Gambler", passed away "peacefully" at his home in Georgia on Friday night (March 20), "surrounded by members of his family," according to a statement posted on Twitter.
Following news of Kenny's passing, Dolly, who worked with him several times, including on their massive 1983 hit "Islands in the Stream", posted a one-minute video message on her Twitter account, along with the caption, "You never know how much you love somebody until they're gone. I've had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend."
Dolly said that she learned about Kenny's death while watching the news, sharing, "I know that we all know that Kenny is in a better place than we are today and I'm pretty sure that he's going to be talking to God sometime today... and he's going to be asking him to spread some light on a bunch of this darkness. I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart's broken. A big ol' chunk of it has gone with him today."
She added, "I think I can speak for all of his family, his friends, and fans when I say that I will always love you... God bless you Kenny, fly high straight into the arms of God. To the rest of you, keep the faith."
Eagles star Don Henley also shared a tribute to Kenny, who helped him land a record deal when he was a member of former-band, Shiloh, saying, "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."
"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," he told Rolling Stone. "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.' "
He finished, "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."
Lionel Richie, who wrote Kenny's hit "Lady", also shared a tribute, posting on Instagram, "Today I lost one of my closest friends. So much laughter so many adventures to remember, my heart is broken. My prayers go out to Kenny's Family."