Kenny Rogers has been an influential presence in country music for decades — so you can imagine the reaction when news broke on March 20 that the Country Music Hall of Fame singer died at 81. As fans grappled with their shock, many of them honed in on the number of times the singing legend had been married.
Let's take a closer look at Kenny Roger's five wives. Because although his wives were competing with a "difficult mistress," through the years, he truly loved them all.
Kenny Rogers had five wives — and he loved them all.
During a 2012 interview with Reuters, Kenny opened up about his multiple marriages — and how his career played a part in his divorces. The interviewer brought up his famous quote: "Music, at least for me, is like a mistress, and she’s a difficult mistress for a wife to compete with," asking Kenny to elaborate.
“When I became driven and selfish I was so intent to follow my life that it cost me," he told the publication. "I was gone so much from some of my marriages that there was a disconnect.”
He added, “And this may seem like an absurd statement, but every woman I married, I really loved when I married her. And I don’t blame them for the marriage falling apart. I blame myself and my chosen field of music. That’s why I say that music is a mistress, because you can’t wait to get out there to it, and usually the mistress wins in a situation like that. That’s kind of what happened to me. Hey, you can’t say I’m afraid of commitment. I’ve been married five times.”
Kenny's first wife was Janice Gordon.
Kenny was only 19 when he exchanged vows with his first wife, Janice Gordon. They were married from 1958 to 1960 and had a daughter named Carole Lynne.
Of his relationship with Carole, he told Fox News, "You know what? I loved her. At 19 I thought, ‘This is OK with me.’ That was a thing where her parents thought I’d ruined her life and were determined to break me. It didn’t work, and it’s really sad because I think it could have worked."
Kenny also explained that he and Janice both agreed that he would play a limited role in his daughter's life upon their split.
"That was my promise to them, that I would be her father but he (his ex-wife’s second husband) would be her Dad, and I don’t want to disrupt that," he told Fox News. "He stepped in at a time that was really awkward for all of us and he became her Dad, and I love him for that. He was a good guy."
Kenny's second wife was Jean Rogers.
Jean Rogers was wife number two for Kenny. The country music legend was married to her from 1960 to 1963; the couple did not have any children together. "That only lasted three years because we finally realized, ‘This isn’t right’ – and in the end, it was boring for me and for her," Kenny told the Independent in 2006.
Kenny's third wife was Margo Anderson.
His third marriage to Margo Anderson lasted from 1964 to 1976. The couple shares a son named Kennedy.
“So then I met this girl and that was a really exciting relationship, which lasted 12 years, and out of it we had a son," Kenny told the Independent. "In fact, the first nine years were as good as it gets, and it was only the last few that got ugly. I was touring a lot and that is part of what killed the marriage.”
Kenny's fourth wife was Marianne Gordon.
Kenny and wive number four Marianne Gordon were married from 1977 to 1993, and they share a son named Christopher. When they split, Marianne walked away with about $60 million in a divorce settlement.
“But Marianne really did deserve the 60 million because she is a great girl and we had a perfect marriage for 15 years,” Kenny told the Independent in 2006. “In fact, everything was fine until our son Christopher was born – but I wouldn’t want him to take any responsibility for this – because that’s when Marianne stopped touring with me and stayed home to take care of him, and then when I came home from touring or doing a tennis tournament, I found that our lifestyles were clashing."
He continued, "So one day we just said, ‘Life is short, we deserve to be happy, let’s find something else to do with our lives,’ and the marriage ended.”
Kenny's fifth wife was Wanda Miller.
Wanda Miller was Kenny's fifth wife — and also the woman to whom he was married at the time of his death. They tied the knot back in 1997 and went on to have twin sons, who are currently 14.
“Wanda and I have been together now for 20 years, been married 15 years. She’s 28 years younger than me, and I say this from the bottom of my heart — she is my soul mate," he told Reuters. "She knows me better than anyone else has known me. She loves what I do and I’m not as insensitive to her needs as I may have been in the past.”
So yes, Kenny had five different wives throughout his lifetime. And although each of those marriages happened under unique circumstances, the country singer has acknowledged it was his passion for his music career that often drove a wedge between himself and his wives — the "difficult mistress" with which four out of the five just couldn't compete.