Kenny Rogers isn’t just calling it a wrap on the road with his current tour. He’ll be done with music — at least making public music — altogether.
Rogers, whose last album You Can’t Make Old Friends, came out in 2013, told Billboard during a conference call with reporters that he has no future recording plans. “I’ve done everything I set out to do,” he explained. “Every goal I’ve set, I’ve done that, and there’s a point where you have to say, ‘I’ve had my turn. Let someone else have it,’ and that’s kind of where I am. It’s not that I dislike music; it’s just that I can’t keep doing this and do what I want to do, which is spend time with my family.”
Rogers reiterated that his main goal for retiring is the 12-year-old twin sons he has with fifth wife Wanda Miller, whom he married in 1997. “I have two older boys and I didn’t get to spend this time with my older boys, and I resent it because it’s a very special time in a kid’s age,” he said. “My boys are playing football this year, and we went to watch a game and they were so excited about us being there, and that’s the kind of thing that as a parent you want to be part of as much as you can.”
The 78-year-old singer has shows booked until April 8 in Danville, Kentucky. He has no second thoughts about his decision, but the actual act of saying goodbye is proving to be a bit harder than he expected. “I thought it was going to be easy because I’m so tired and it’s not as easy for me to get around. I’m not as mobile as I used to be,” he said. “I’ve changed the show totally. The show’s about an hour and a half long, and I go through a chronological look at my life that includes all my music. … For me to go back and recap myFirst Edition experience, the group I was with called the Scholars and my jazz period with [late vocalist] Bobby Doyle is very exciting for me.” The format has also led Rogers to revamp the annual holiday show he’ll be putting on later this year.
“Usually I do a full Christmas show, the hits and then an hour of Christmas, and we’re not doing that this year because the hits portion of the show is too long,” Rogers said. Instead there will be a more modest selection of several holiday favorites, though with choirs and dancers and other elements to set them apart from the rest of the shows. “The production will be bigger on the Christmas songs,” he promised. “I personally love Christmas; That’s always been my favorite part of the year. I love doing the Christmas songs. I would hate not to do those.”
Rogers said he’s had several offers for special guests at the show but isn’t sure whether any of those will actually transpire. “I’ve had a lot of people who said, ‘Can I come out and do something with you?'” he confirmed. “Don Henley said, ‘Kenny, I’ll join you out there and we’ll do ‘Desperado’ or something.’ And I know that’s a huge commitment; it’s easy to commit and hard to live up to. So I just finally said, ‘Don, if you get out there I’d love to see ya, and we’ll find something to sing. But don’t feel obligated or committed to come out.'”
Rogers acknowledged that there’s been some filming and taping of his farewell show, but he predicted that it will be “more for documentation than for…release.” But the exercise of doing a final tour has given him a chance to reflect on nearly 60 years of recording and even more than that of performing.
“I’ve hopefully gotten more professional, and I’ve constantly tried to have something unique to offer people when I come into their town in the way of production or vocals or music I’ve chosen,” Rogers said. “And I think what has really served me well is the live performance is usually better than the recorded performance. … It feels like a long, long time ago ’cause so much has happened in the meantime. If you’re busy doing a lot of different things, then your year goes by pretty quickly. And there’s been so man years, I guess it seems like a long time.”
By Gary Graff