Kenny Rogers Chose His Kids With Much Younger Wife Over Career & They’ve Grown To ‘Look So Much Like Their Dad’

Country music icon Kenny Rogers had an incredible six-decade career in entertainment before passing away at the age of 81 in March 2020. A singer, songwriter, actor, record producer and entrepreneur, Kenny could do it all.

Born on Aug. 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas, Kenny’s music recording career began all the way back in the 1950s, moving between genres like rock and roll, psychedelic rock and country pop. Kenny was in a couple of bands, including The First Edition, before he branched out on his own in the mid-’70s, becoming a country-pop crossover sensation.

During his solo career, he worked with some of the best musicians of the time, including his dear friend Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, the Bee Gees and others, but his solo success spoke for itself. He sold over 100 million records during his life, which makes him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He also won numerous awards.

But on top of his stellar career in music, Kenny was also a proud family man. Although he was known to the world as a music legend, Kenny once said, “I hope my fans understand that I’m a father first and a singer second.”

Married five different times, Kenny bore five children, two of whom are twins Justin and Jordan Rogers, who he had with his fifth wife, Wanda Rogers (née Miller). In fact, Justin and Jordan even performed live with their famous dad back at the North Georgia State Fair back in 2014. Wanda joined her family onstage as well.

Back then, the twins were 10 years old, but now they’re 19 and all grown up. Before Kenny passed, he shared just how thrilled he was to welcome his twin boys.

Despite Kenny’s incredible success and fame in his adult life, he came from humble roots. His family was impoverished, and his parents struggled to provide him and his siblings with a decent life. They lived in a housing project that was funded by the federal government. He grew up with his six siblings and parents in the housing project situated on the opposite side of the rail tracks. Kenny spoke about his poor background in interviews and once said:

“We were on welfare most of my childhood.”

His dad earned a living by working as a carpenter, and he struggled with alcoholism. In an interview with Reuters in 2012, Kenny revealed that watching his father struggle with his addiction made him decide to renounce alcohol altogether. He said:

“I never drank in my life. I saw it destroy him and saw it destroy other people I work with, so I made a conscious decision about this. Plus, I didn’t know if there was any predetermination for me as the son of an alcoholic to become addicted, so I just never tried it.”

In his autobiography titled “Luck or Something Like It,” the musician explained bit by bit how his challenging upbringing shaped his life. He said in his Reuters interview, “I think it made me more determined.” However, he was quick to point out the “fine line between being driven and being selfish,” which he admitted to having been at times in his life.

Before he became a famous musician, he worked as a busboy at the Rice Hotel in Houston. He also had a gig working as a cleaner in a hat shop. But from a young age, Kenny always knew he ultimately wanted to pursue music.

The country music star told Fox News in a 2012 interview:

“My mom told me when I was very young, ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ and that just sounded too good to be true. So I set out on this musical journey. I’ve been lucky in my life. That’s what I wanted to tell people to pursue their dreams.”

Among his siblings, he was the first one to graduate from high school. He started his first music band toward the end of the 1950s, where he had a group known as The Scholars. Although he wasn’t the lead singer in the band, he did have a spotlight number and sang “Moonlight in Vermont.” The band released a few local hits and made a name for themselves in Houston. At the time, Kenny had started to enjoy stardom and the fruits of his music. As a result, he became quite popular among local girls.

In 1958, Kenny experienced some success in his music career after recording his single hit song “That Crazy Feeling.” That same year, he was featured in “American Bandstand,” which was a popular music program at the time. At the onset of his career, Kenny explored different styles of music genres. He once played bass within a jazz group and experimented with folk-style pop when he joined the New Christy Minstrels in 1996.

He then experienced mainstream success during the mid-1970s when he embarked on a solo career to become a household name. In 1977, he released the ballad “Lucille,” which was his first country music hit. The song would later earn him his first Grammy award. In 1978, Kenny released his hit song “The Gambler,” which also won him another Grammy.

During his solo career, Kenny worked with some of the best musicians of the time, including his dear friend Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, the Bee Gees and others. But his solo success spoke for itself.

His duet from 1983 with good friend Parton, “Islands In the Stream,” was a massive hit, and the pair of friends teamed up once again in 2013 for a song titled “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” The official music video of “You Can’t Make Old Friends” featured the duo sitting side by side as they talked about their decades-long friendship. Parton mentioned it had been 30 years since “Islands In The Stream” was a hit, and she said:

“To this day I never get tired of hearing that song, same with the audience, everybody loves that song.”

Kenny explained that when they recorded the song when Parton walked into the room, “Something really special happened.” Dolly replied: “There’s something about mine and Kenny’s chemistry with each other, our friendship. People sense what we really feel.” The two of them also said that they were soul partners.

After Kenny brought it up, Parton agreed and said:

“There’s different kinds of soul mates, but it’s like with Kenny I just see him and I smile.”

Kenny added:

“We can not see each other for six months and we walk in a room and it’s like we’re just back together again … We are old friends.”

While Kenny had a lot of successful partnerships throughout his music career, his collaborations with Parton are some of the most cherished.

Although Kenny worked with some of the best artists during his long career, he also didn’t forget about the people close to him, specifically his family. A proud family man, Kenny was married five times and had five children, including his youngest kids, twin sons Justin and Jordan, whom he had with his fifth wife, Wanda.

Before Wanda, Kenny was married to Marianne Gordon, which ended in a hefty divorce bill. “But Marianne really did deserve the $60 million because she is a great girl and we had a perfect marriage for 15 years,” he said.

It was love at first sight for Kenny and Wanda. The star actually spotted her working as a waitress while he was out on another date. He discussed the moment in his autobiography, as reported by Cheatsheet. He wrote:

“I’m honestly not sure she even looked at me, but I saw her. I don’t know what and I don’t know why, but there was just something incredibly different about her from the minute I saw her. She had a smile, not a hostess smile, but something more genuine, and believe it or not, it rocked me to my core.”

But the couple’s age gap of 28 years proved to be an issue for Wanda’s family. Kenny said in an interview with Fox News:

“Her parents are two years younger than me. They called me when we started dating and said, ‘We want you to know we didn’t appreciate what you’re doing with our daughter,’ and I said, ‘First of all I don’t blame you. I don’t think I would either but I will make you a promise. I will never lie to her and I will never lie to you.’ Now they’re my best friends.”

Ever the family man, Kenny showed his love for them when he performed with Justin and Jordan at the North Georgia State Fair in 2014. Whether it’s a duet with another world-famous musician or his family, Kenny always gave it his all. Together he and his sons sang his song “To Me.” The incredible on-stage rendition delivered a large amount of emotion as the country icon showed true affection for his sons during the performance.

“To Me” might not be as popular as other songs of Kenny, but it remains a track that many fans adore. The video of Kenny’s performance with Jordan and Justin provides a loving visual image for fans to adore even more.

The live audience in attendance at the fair saw something unforgettable that day. They responded with genuine emotion and affection for Kenny and his family. Likely, many at home who watched the video did the same. Perhaps some people even chuckled when the twins discussed the baseball game they lost the day before! But whether you’ve seen the video before or not, if you’re a fan of Kenny, it’s likely you know how much family meant to him.

As reported by Closer Weekly, the country music hall of fame legend told CMT News in an August 2016 interview:

“I hope my fans understand that I’m a father first and a singer second.”

He added that he was “missing some very great parts of (his) boys’ lives” and that he knew “as well as anybody else how that time gets away from you.” He added:

“And I don’t want to miss it. I just worry about how much longer I’m going to be here, and I want to have time to spend with them. It’s pretty simple.”

Sadly, Kenny passed away just four years later.

When Kenny was still alive, he spoke with about the struggles of being an older father but also the joys of welcoming more children into the world. Before he and Wanda even married, he told his future wife that he didn’t “want anymore kids,” and Wanda agreed.

“Actually, before we married my position was, ‘Been there, done that’, so I told her, ‘I don’t want any more kids’ and she said, ‘I don’t either,'” Kenny said.

However, Kenny knew that since she didn’t have any kids of her own, there might be a day when her mindset changed. And sure enough, on Wanda’s 31st birthday, she approached the country singer and asked if they could have one child together. But it seemed like the universe had other plans.

“So we went for it, and when I was told it was twins, man, I was thrilled,” Kenny shared. “So was Wanda. It wasn’t just, ‘We are going to have a baby,’ it was totally overwhelming.”

On top of that, Kenny worried about his increasing age and how he would raise not just one baby but two. The country singer shared:

“That bothers me on a daily basis. Someone will be talking about his or her child going to college and it breaks my heart. And that was the reason I didn’t want children again. Because I knew I wouldn’t be there at the prime of their lives. But it’s that half-full/half-empty thing, because I get so much joy out of my children now and they are such a blessing to Wanda and me.”

This wasn’t the first time Kenny opened up about wanting to spend precious time with his sons and wife.

According to IMDb, Kenny once said:

“I’ve been so lucky to have enjoyed such a long career and to have such amazing support from my fans and all who helped me along the way, but there comes a time when I need to focus on spending time with my family. There are a lot of things I want to do together with them to create some special memories. I don’t have a bucket list of my own … I have a bucket list of things I want to do with them.”

And, as a man of his word, in 2015, Kenny announced his final tour, and he gave his last live performance in Nashville in 2017.

Now that Kenny is gone, his wife and sons are keeping his memory alive by frequently sharing updates and family photos with Justin and Jordan, who are now 19 years old and all grown up.

On June 11, 2023, the family shared a photo of the twins at their high school graduation. While it’s sad Kenny is no longer around to mark the milestone with them, the boys looked proud and very much like their famous dad, according to fans.

“Wow they really are identical & look so much like their dad. Wow ❤️” one user commented while another said, “you both are so handsome, resemble your dad a lot, enjoy the ride😊”

Wanda shared the sentiment and told People:

“I see so much of him in their mannerisms, how they stand with their hands in their pockets or behind their backs when they’re listening to something. I always tell them, ‘That was your dad’s look.’ The older they get, the more they want to know about him. I hear them tell people, ‘My dad used to stand like that.’ It’s so sweet.”

Are you a fan of Kenny Rogers? Do you see the family resemblance between him and his twin sons, Justin and Jordan? Let us know, and pass this on to any country music fans you know!

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