Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times
Soon after the 2000s began, one of the bestselling artists of all-time bowed out. Several major life events preceded the announcement of Brooks' retirement. His mother died in 1999, and the following year he and his wife of 14 years, Sandy, were divorced. The couple's daughters were 8, 6 and 4 at the time.
Brooks announced in October 2009 that he was coming out of retirement and was heading to Las Vegas. Yet he wasn't completely absent from the pop landscape for the eight years he was in supposed hibernation. Any lingering questions about Brooks' ongoing drawing power were obliterated in 2007 when he played nine concerts in Kansas City, Mo., in conjunction with the release that fall of his compilation album, "Ultimate Hits." He initially planned one show at the 19,000-capacity Spring Center Arena as a thank-you to employees of Wal-Mart, where the album was sold exclusively, but demand quickly led to the addition of eight more shows that were opened to the general public. All nine sold out in a matter of minutes.
Two months later he quickly sold out five shows at Staples Center in Los Angeles that were benefits for firefighters and victims of wildfires that had recently scorched broad swaths of Southern California.