Interview: Kenny Rogers Reflects on His Impending Retirement
After six decades in the music business, Kenny Rogers is finally ready to walk away -- almost. The country icon is currently on the road on his Gambler's Last Deal farewell tour, which will take him all over the United States, as well as to several other countries, before wrapping up sometime in 2017 and capping off Rogers' incredible career. (A list of all of Rogers' upcoming shows is available on his website.)
Rogers -- who recently announced a string of special Christmas & Hits dates, set for this winter -- sat down with The Boot to discuss his impending retirement, his final tour and the reason he knows that he's ready to stop working.
Why is now the right time to retire?
I’m 77 years old, and I don’t know how many more years I have. I wanted to make sure to do a farewell tour and go to some of the places that have been particularly good to me in the past.
And, mostly, I have identical twin boys that are 11 years old, and I want to spend quality time with them. I have two older boys that I missed that quality time with, and they’re good kids, their mothers did a great job of raising them, but I just feel that I have a legacy to leave them, and I need to be there to give it to them.
Knowing that this is the last time you will be performing in these cities, do you feel any sadness?
Not yet, but maybe on that last couple days. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll bring everybody to my house and do a show.
How does it feel to know this is your final tour?
It feels good. First of all, we have a brand-new show, so it’s more fun. I’m not just going out and doing the same thing I’ve been doing for 10 years. We’re doing a retrospective, linear look at my life, my musical life. And it’s fascinating; I forget some of the things I’ve done.
It’s fun for me to do them, to go back. The band loves it, because they’ve been on autopilot for about 10 years, and now they have to pay attention.
It's a really busy tour, with a lot of dates. It has to make you tired.
I work four or five days in a row, and that’s it, and then I go home. At Christmastime [in years past], it has really been hectic; I’ve worked 35 shows straight. That wears me out. But just doing a few shows and going home ... it’s a great way to do it.
As you look back on your career, what is your biggest highlight?
I think the people I met. I’ve had a chance to meet some of my heroes: I met Ray Charles, and he was the reason I got in this business; I loved being able to sit down and speak to him. I met Elvis [Presley], and we became good friends.
You meet people who represent more than you think you are. I don’t think I realized how much influence people say I’ve been on their lives, and then I look at their career, and I go, "Wow, that’s interesting."
I tell all the young kids that are out there: Be careful, because every night, you’re going to inspire some little 12-year-old kid, and you want to be sure you’re doing the right thing with them. It’s a great sense of value, to have that power, and it’s a great sense of responsibility, too.
With all the awards and accolades you have received, what are you most proud of?
I think probably [joining the Country Music] Hall of Fame, because before that, I had never really been accepted by country music. I had always been the guy that changed country music. I feel like George Bush -- "You miss me yet?"
I just think that the Hall of Fame -- my two older boys said, "Dad, I thought you were already in the Hall of Fame." I said, "Let me tell you something: It’s not when, it’s that you get in.” Because songs come and go, and people come and go, but the Hall of Fame is forever, and so that was acceptance by country music, too.
Do you have any regrets?
Regrets, and things I wish I hadn’t had to do. I wrote in my book that there’s a fine line between being driven and being selfish, and I think when I was young, I was selfish; I was concerned about me. I lost two wives, and I didn’t get to spend time with my older boys, and I regret that.
I wish I hadn’t had to do it that way. I don’t think I would be where I am if I hadn’t, but it’s just one of the byproducts of the business, I think.
Will you do any more recording after you finish your tour?
No. I’m done. I think I am. I think when you quit, you quit. That sucks you back into it, because if you get a hit, you’ve got to go do something with it. And mostly, to get a hit, you don’t just throw out a record and hope; you have a lot of work to do to get it, and I don’t feel like doing that anymore.
I mean, I’d like to go out -- the song we end in the show is a song I recorded, "Let’s Go Out in a Blaze of Glory." Linda Davis is on the show with me, and we sing that song. We do some of the duets that I’ve done. It’s really a fun time for me.
What do you think retirement will look like for you?
With 11-year-old twins, who knows?
I’m excited about this. I think they’re at a great age, and they just say things, and they do things. You have to be there to enjoy them. I’m determined to be there with them.
See Kenny Rogers' + More Country Stars' Yearbook Pictures