Brooks eyes retirement late next year

Thursday, December 16th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Editors note: This is a follow-up to the story first reported Wednesday in Tulsa by The News on Six.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Garth Brooks, the biggest-selling act in country music history, may retire in a year because his three young daughters are more important than his career. Brooks, who has sold 97 million albums during a 10-year recording career, says he will "lay low" for about 10 months and then probably announce his retirement late in 2000.

"I never, ever thought in my life I'd say this, but music is not the first thing in my life any more," the Oklahoma native said Wednesday on The Nashville Network's "Crook & Chase" show. "Those girls somehow come along and they just take your energy and all of a sudden all you want to do is you want to do things that make them smile." His daughters are 3, 5 and 7. "...I've got to step up and take care of my responsibility," Brooks said.

Brooks, 37, has hinted at retirement before. In 1995 he said he might curtail his career because of family obligations. His hits include "The Dance," "Friends in Low Places,” ”American Honky-Tonk Bar Association," "Unanswered Prayers," "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "If Tomorrow Never Comes," "The Thunder Rolls," "Shameless," "The River," "That Summer" and "Somewhere Other Than the Night."

His top-selling albums are "No Fences" in 1990, which sold 16 million copies, and "Ropin' the Wind" in 1991, which sold 14 million. In November 1998, his "Double Live" album sold a record 1 million copies in a week, breaking the previous record held by Whitney Houston in 1992 for "The Bodyguard." "Double Live" sales topped out at 12 million.

Brooks last toured a year ago, playing 100 cities and selling more than 5.3 million tickets. In August 1997 he performed before hundreds of thousands in New York's Central Park. Last spring he left his music career for six weeks to attend spring training with the San Diego Padres. Brooks said he still hopes to write songs and maybe movie scripts. "Writing seems to be what my bag is," he said.

A spokeswoman for Capitol Records, Brooks' record company, said the label would have no comment on his plans. "He said what he wanted to say during the course of the interview," Karen Byrd said. Brooks' retirement would be a huge blow to a country music industry with flat sales in recent years after huge growth that Brooks fueled. "Any time any industry loses its top player, it's going to hurt," said Lon Helton, country editor of Radio & Records, a trade magazine covering the radio and record businesses. "Half of selling records is getting people into the store. He would bring people into the store, and maybe they would buy something else while they were there."

Brooks took on the role of an Australian pop singer on his latest album, "Garth Brooks in ... the Life of Chris Gaines.” Sales have been disappointing. "You wonder if his disappointment over this Chris Gaines project is playing into his short term feelings about what he wants to do," Helton said. "I hope he doesn't view it as a failure. He tried to do something new and different. It's always the pioneers who come back with arrows in the butt."