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Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 11:50 GMT
Country king Garth's 'retirement'
Country crossroads: Will the industry lose its biggest star?
Top country star Garth Brooks has surprised his fans by announcing he will "probably" retire next year to spend more time with his family.

The 37-year-old American - the biggest-selling act in the history of country music - made his plans public in an interview on cable TV's Crook & Chase Show.

"I never, ever thought in my life I'd say this, but music is not the first thing in my life anymore," he said.

Brooks remains one of America's most popular live acts
"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."

Brooks, whose daughters with wife Sandy are aged three, five and seven, said he plans to "lay low" for nine or 10 months. Then the star said he hopes to throw a big party and will "probably" announce his retirement at the end of next year.

When host Charlie Chase asked whether "retirement" meant leaving the music industry for good, Brooks replied that he'd still like to write songs and possibly film scripts.

He also indicated that when his daughters were older he might return to performing, "But right now, definitely I've got to step up and take care of my responsibility."

Brooks' record company Capitol Records declined to comment on the announcement.

Brooks has received almost every award in country and pop music
It's not the first time that Brooks has talked of retirement. In 1995 he said he might quit due to family obligations but returned to the road shortly afterwards.

Brooks' retirement would be a huge blow to the country music industry, which has seen sales decline in the past few years.

During his 10-year record career, Brooks has taken the industry to new heights by selling in excess of 97 million albums.

His top selling albums include the 1990 classic No Fences and Grammy-winning Ropin' the Wind in 1991, which was the first album in history to debut at number one in the Billboard pop and country charts.

Brooks has received almost every music award in both country and pop fields, including a total of 13 American Music Awards.

He also sold 5.3 million tickets for his 100 city tour last year.

However Brooks' recent attempt at a pop rock "concept" album, The Life of Chris Gaines, met with mediocre reviews and disappointing sales.

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