The King Of Crossover Calls It A Day

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Kenny Rogers (Photo courtesy of Webster Public Relations)
Kenny Rogers (Photo courtesy of Webster Public Relations)

Kenny Rogers brings farewell tour to Westbury

Around this time of year, you could always count on Kenny Rogers bringing his Christmas show to Westbury Music Fair (nowadays known as the NYCB Theatre at Westbury). Longtime fans already know that 2016 marks the last time you’ll be seeing Rogers performing around these parts. This year’s Once Again Its Christmas Tour is also doubling as a farewell from the 78-year-old performer, who has decided to retire from the road.

Given the fact that the Country Music Hall of Famer has charted a record in each of the last seven decades, sold more than 100 million records worldwide and received three Grammys, 11 People’s Choice Awards, 18 American Music Awards, eight Academy of Country Music awards and six CMA awards over the course of his career, Rogers didn’t feel like there was much left to prove.

“I’ve done everything I set out to do, every goal I set for myself. There’s a point where you have to say, ‘I had my turn. Let someone else have it,’” he said. “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.”

To say Rogers has had a full and successful career is an understatement, given the fact that he’s augmented his touring and recording career by briefly running a record label and recording studio, found success acting on television and found his net worth swell to $250 million spurred by his involvement with the Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant chain.

But it’s the native Texan’s broad musical style that while it’s been labeled country music, has found him collaborating with everyone from Dolly Parton and Sheena Easton to Lionel Richie and Phish. Rogers admits that reinvention has been a major key to his success.

Kenny Rogers (far right) and the First Edition
Kenny Rogers (far right) and the First Edition

“In the music business, you can do what everyone else is doing and do it better, [but] I never liked my chances. I knew I couldn’t do what Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and those guys did, and do it better. Or you can do something totally different and then you stand out because there’s no way to invite comparisons. That’s where I’ve always been most comfortable,” he explained. “And the ballads I did…I came up through jazz, so I had a little more experience in singing those types of songs, which helped me on ‘Through the Years,’ ‘She Believes in Me’ and ‘You Decorated My Life.’ They were song songs. They weren’t country songs. They were just songs with great messages.”

The First Edition wasn’t set up as a rock ’n’ roll act. It was just set up to be contemporary for the times. We had a lot of success, and most of those records were successful in the country market, too — “Reuben James,” “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town. Once I got in … I wasn’t typical country. But I think I did invite people into country music that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. The great thing about country music is, once you get into it, you don’t get out of it. It’s a very personal music, and no other music can say that.”

Fans lucky enough to see Rogers on this last go-round will not get the traditional Christmas show as much as a walk through Rogers’ recording career. And while he’s thrilled about finally being able to see his twin teen sons play football now that he won’t be on the road, the Texas native is finding this walk down memory lane to be pretty rewarding.

“I’ve changed the show totally. The show is about an hour-and-a-half long. I go through a chronological look through my life, which includes all my music,” he explained.

He added, “A lot of people don’t know this but in 1957, I had a record on the Cue label that got to number 59 on the charts, so that’s kind of where it’s all started. Since then, it’s been an interesting career to say the very least. The places that I’ve been allowed to go to and the people I’ve been allowed to sing for and the responses have been really wonderful. For me to be able to go back and recap my First Edition experiences, the group I was with called The Scholars and my jazz group with Bobby Doyle is very exciting for me.”

Kenny Rogers  appears on Dec. 23 at NYCB Theatre @ Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury. Visit www.thetheatreatwestbury.com or call 800-745-3000.

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