Country music icon Kenny Rogers “felt like his life was over” before he died, his ex-wife Marianne Gordon exclusively tells Closer Weekly. “Our son [Chris] said he thought Kenny associated retirement with death,” the Hee Haw star, 74, reveals. “He was always so up and positive and then he was in a depression.”

Marianne says for a person like Kenny, “who [was] positive and always up … to be down, even a little bit … you notice it,” she continues. “But he still had his sense of humor.”

The late “Coward of the County” crooner’s loved ones confirmed his death on social media on Saturday, March 21. “The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25 p.m. at the age of 81,” the statement read. “Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family.”

kenny rogers marianne gordon chris rogers

Throughout their 16-year marriage from 1977 to 1993, and even leading up to his death, Marianne tells Closer the “Islands in the Stream” singer didn’t seem to take care of his health. “He also never exercised,” she adds.

“When I met him, he only played golf and we started playing tennis,” explains the Rosemary’s Baby actress, who welcomed her and Kenny’s only son, Chris Rogers, in 1982. “He was great about playing tennis, but then he wouldn’t exercise and doctors said he needed to.”

Marianne says the Grammy Award winner’s health was “never the same after” having to undergo “surgery on a heart valve” within the last few years. “He got an infection,” she reveals. “About two years ago, he had the surgery … that’s when he started going downhill. I don’t know if [his] body was strong enough to take it.”

The doting mom tells Closer she got word of Kenny’s death when her son, 38, called her with the sad news. “I knew that he was not in great health,” she says, adding that Kenny’s wife Wanda Miller called Chris and “wanted to tell him that things were not looking good and the end was near. I think they thought he had a couple more weeks, but he didn’t.”

Although Marianne and Chris weren’t there to say goodbye when Kenny died, the Georgia native says she believes “Wanda and his twin boys” were by his side. “I think they probably needed nurses with him and probably said maybe it’s a good idea to put him in the hospital, but decided to have him stay at home,” she notes.

kenny rogers marianne gordon 2005

Despite going separate ways with the Country Music Hall of Famer almost three decades ago, Marianne is still heartbroken over his unfortunate death. “He was an incredible person,” she gushes to Closer. “It’s very upsetting when I start talking about him … for 17 of 21 years, every day, he was so sweet.”

For more on your favorite celebs, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!