Kenny Rogers’ ex-wife Marianne Gordon remembers the late singer: ‘He really didn’t change with fame’

Marianne Gordon is mourning the loss of her ex-husband Kenny Rogers.

The Grammy-winning artist who embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on records and on TV, died Friday night. He was 81. Rogers’ rep told The Associated Press he was under hospice care and passed away from natural causes.

“He was an incredible person,” Gordon, 74, recently told Closer Weekly.

According to the outlet, the actress met the singer in 1974 and they married in 1977. In 1981, they welcomed their son Christopher Cody Rogers. The couple parted ways in 1993.

Rogers went on to marry Wanda Miller in 1997. They remained together until his death.

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Musician Kenny Rogers and wife Marianne Gordon attend the NBC Fall TCA Press Tour on July 29, 1991 at Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Musician Kenny Rogers and wife Marianne Gordon attend the NBC Fall TCA Press Tour on July 29, 1991 at Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images) (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

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“It’s very upsetting when I start talking about him,” Gordon told the magazine while fighting back tears.

“For 17 of 21 years, every day, he was so sweet,” she shared. “I always felt his total focus was on me. If anyone wanted anything from him, he was looking me in the eye and said, ‘Whatever she wants to do.’”

“I think that when he turned 50, I didn’t have his full attention anymore but it looked like he still wanted me here,” the “Rosemary’s Baby” actress continued. “His life is such an open book and after two years he felt this craving, this longing. He said he felt like he was having a mid-life crisis. He felt like his career was fading.”

Gordon said Rogers used to worry about his career in country music coming to an end.

“Kenny used to say he had dreams he would go to perform and there wouldn’t be anyone in the audience,” said Gordon. “That was a nightmare to him. That was a repeated dream for him.”

Despite his insecurities, the “Hee Haw” star insisted Rogers “was a pleasure to live with.”

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Musician Kenny Rogers, wife Marianne Gordon, and son Christopher Rogers attend the 10th Annual American Music Awards on January 17, 1983, at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.

Musician Kenny Rogers, wife Marianne Gordon, and son Christopher Rogers attend the 10th Annual American Music Awards on January 17, 1983, at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

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“He was always in a good mood and had a wonderful sense of humor about things,” she said. “And he really didn’t change with fame.”

While the relationship ultimately came to an end, Gordon said she still treasured their many happy memories together.

“The end of a relationship like that can be devastating, but there were many fabulous memories,” said Gordon. “I like to think about those. We had a sweet child together and he is 38 now.”

“I couldn’t say enough nice things about him and how special he was,” she continued. “So many people have called to remind me of the wonderful things Kenny did to help his friends and mine, including buying a car for a friend’s mother. He was such a kind, good person.”

Rogers thrived for some 60 years before retired from touring in 2017 at age 79. Despite his crossover success, he always preferred to be thought of as a country singer.

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Kenny Rogers.

Kenny Rogers. (Reuters)

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“You either do what everyone else is doing and you do it better, or you do what no one else is doing and you don’t invite comparison,” Rogers told The Associated Press in 2015. “And I chose that way because I could never be better than Johnny Cash or Willie or Waylon at what they did. So I found something that I could do that didn’t invite comparison to them. And I think people thought it was my desire to change country music. But that was never my issue.”

Rogers is survived by his wife, Wanda, and his sons Justin, Jordan, Chris and Kenny Jr., as well as two brothers, a sister and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, his representative said.

The family is planning a private service “out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency,” a statement posted early Saturday read. A public memorial will be held at a later date.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.