Once again demonstrating superb instincts for knowing when to fold ’em, multiplatinum country star Kenny Rogers looks to make a graceful exit from show business over the next year, kick-starting a farewell tour after receiving CMT’s Artist of a Lifetime award. The veteran — who currently stands as the eighth bestselling male artist of all time — espouses a number of motivations for his retirement, but the chief among them is simple self-awareness.
“I think country music is whatever country people will buy,” Rogers says, when asked of the genre’s current health. “And I think people don’t buy certain kinds of country anymore. So what happens is that in their efforts to do something different, to set themselves apart from me and the other guys before me, they took it to a different place. Country is very healthy right now – they’re bringing in a lot of kids. But it’s not a type of music that I prefer or that I would want to do, and that’s why I’m getting out.”
Though he recalls falling in love with country thanks to his affection for traditionalists like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Lefty Frizzell, Rogers’ solo career was built on constant crossovers, pushing country into the realms of pop, adult-contemporary and even R&B, setting the stage for the genre to move full-scale into pop music in later decades.
Of course, prior to his emergence as a marquee solo star in the late-1970s, Rogers had already seen degrees of success as a jazz bassist, a protest singer and even a psychedelia-flavored rock star with the First Edition.
“It might be a terrible thing to say, but I feel like I’ve done everything I set out to do,” he says. “I don’t really have any challenges unless I want to go out and compete with new country, and I don’t have any desire to do that.”
The 77-year-old has some personal reasons for leaving the stage behind, as well.
“I have 11-year-old identical twin boys now,” Rogers notes. “And when I was younger, there was a fine line between being driven and being selfish. And so I was on the road six or seven months out of every year, which ruined a couple of marriages and took me away from my kids. And I was determined that wasn’t going to happen to these boys.”