David Browne
September 25, 1992 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Here’s a familiar refrain: Garth Brooks has been mulling over the possibility that he may retire after his new album, The Chase, to devote more time to his wife and new baby. Uh-huh. Announcing a retirement — and then reneging on it — has become a time-honored pop tradition. So should we believe Brooks? Just ask any of the pros below.

FRANK SINATRA, 1971
*FAMOUS LAST WORDS: ”After 35 years in show business, I think I’ve had it… It’s over,” he said before giving two farewell concerts in L.A. *LENGTH OF RETIREMENT: 2 years *RATIONALE FOR RETURNING: ”I didn’t realize how much I’d miss this business.” Conveniently neglects to mention comeback album, TV special, and weekly salary of $400,000 to play Caesars Palace in Vegas. *RESULTS OF BREAKING HIS WORD: Reduced in the ’70s to singing ”Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” (”baddest cat in the whole damn town”) to show how with-it he is.

DAVID BOWIE, 1973
*FAMOUS LAST WORDS: Vowed never to perform live again during London concert with his band, the Spiders from Mars. *LENGTH OF RETIREMENT: 1 year *RATIONALE FOR RETURNING: What he actually meant was that it was his last concert with the Spiders from Mars. *RESULTS OF BREAKING HIS WORD: His horrid ”Dancing in the Streets” duet with Mick Jagger; Tin Machine; 1990 ”last time I’ll play these songs” tour.

ELTON JOHN, 1977
*FAMOUS LAST WORDS: Saying there was no ”burning spark” left in him, announced retirement from live shows during a concert at Empire Pool in England. *LENGTH OF RETIREMENT: 15 months *RATIONALE FOR RETURNING: 1978 album A Single Man flops. Suddenly, an invitation to tour Sweden sounds good. *RESULTS OF HIS BREAKING HIS WORD: For next dozen years, public subjected to sad sight of increasingly chubby and hairless Elton groping for a hit single or two.

THE WHO, 1982
*FAMOUS LAST WORDS: ”I would say the group is finished,” said guitarist Pete Townshend during beer- sponsored farewell tour. *LENGHT OF RETIRMENT: 7 years *RATIONALE OF RETURNING: Group compelled to celebrate its 25th anniversary with 1989 beer-sponsored tour. Gross: estimated to be more than $50 million. Townshend: ”Our intentions are good.” *RESULTS OF BREAKING THEIR WORD: Balding, partly deaf Townshend hospitalized for cutting his hand while attempting a once-second-nature guitar windmill during ”Won’t Get Fooled Again” at Washington’s Tacoma Dome.

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