Garth Brooks

Troyal Garth Brooks (born February 7, 1962) is an American country music singer-songwriter. Successfully integrating rock elements into his recordings and live performances, Brooks soon began to dominate the country singles and country album charts and quickly crossed over into the mainstream pop arena, exposing country music to a larger audience.[1]

Brooks has enjoyed one of the most successful careers in popular music history, with over 70 hit singles and 15 charted albums to his credit and over 123 million albums sold in the United States alone.[2] Throughout the 1990s he broke records for both sales and concert attendance. In 1999, looking to expand his career boundaries, Brooks began a project that was intended to forshadow a movie that followed the life of a rock star by the name of Chris Gaines. The album left most people scratching their heads due to the fact that the movie was never released and the album was left to stand alone, in which case it did not do so well. However, dedicated fans bought the CD anyway.

Troubled by conflicts between career and family, in 2001 Brooks officially retired from recording and performing.[1] During this time he has sold millions of albums through an exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart and has sporadically released new singles.


Early life and songs

Garth Brooks was born on February 7, 1962, the youngest of six children, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was raised in Yukon, Oklahoma.[5]father, Troyal Brooks, worked as a draftsman for an oil company, while his mother, Colleen Carroll, was a country music singer on the Capitol Records label in the 1950's and also a regular on the Red Foley Show.[5][6][7] Even as a child, Brooks was interested in music, often singing in casual family settings, but his primary interest was athletics. In high school he played football and baseball and ran track. After graduation from high school, he attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater on a track scholarship as a javelin thrower and defensive end.[7][8] While at OSU, he was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Despite discontinuing his participation in the sport, he still graduated in 1984 with a degree in advertising advertising.[8]

Later that year, Brooks began his professional music career, singing and playing guitar in Oklahoma clubs and bars, particularly the Tumbleweed in Stillwater. After a failed 1985 24-hour trip to Nashville to gain a record contract, Brooks returned to Oklahoma and in 1986, married Sandy Mahl of Owasso, Oklahoma, whom he had met while working as a bouncer. The couple later had three daughters: Taylor Mayne Pearl (b. 1992), August Anna (b. 1994) and Allie Colleen (b. 1996). The following year, the couple moved to Nashville, and Brooks was able to begin making contacts in the music industry.[7][8]

The success begins

Garth Brooks' eponymous first album, Garth Brooks, was released in 1989 and was a critical and chart success. It peaked at #2 in the US country album chart and reached #13 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart. Most of the album was traditionalist country, influenced in part by George Strait.[6] The first single, "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," was a country top 10 success. It was followed by his first country #1, "If Tomorrow Never Comes." "Not Counting You" reached #2, and then "The Dance" put him at #1 again; this song's theme of people dying in the course of doing something they believe in resonated strongly and together with a popular music video gave Brooks his first push towards a broader audience. Brooks has claimed that of all the songs he has recorded, "The Dance" is his favorite.[6]

His follow-up album, No Fences, was released in 1990 and spent 23 weeks as #1 on the Billboard country music chart.[9] The album also reached #3 on the pop chart, and eventually became Brooks's highest-selling album, with domestic sales of over 16 million records.[10] It contained what would become Brooks' signature song, the blue collar anthem "Friends in Low Places", as well as two other Brooks classics, the dramatic and controversial "The Thunder Rolls" and the philosophically ironic "Unanswered Prayers". Each of these songs, as well as the affectionate "Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House," reached #1 on the country chart.[6][9] While Brooks' musical style placed him squarely within the boundaries of country music, he was strongly influenced by the 1970s singer-songwriter movement, especially the works of James Taylor (whom he idolized and named his first child after) and Dan Fogelberg.[11][12] Similarly, Brooks was influenced by the operatic rock of the 1970s-era Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. In his highly successful live shows, Brooks used a wireless headset microphone to free himself to run about the stage, adding energy and arena rock theatrics to spice up the normally staid country music approach to concerts. The hard rock band KISS was also one of his earliest grade school musical influences, and his shows often reflected this. Brooks said that the style of his show was inspired mostly by Chris LeDoux.[13]


United States

Brooks' third album, Ropin' the Wind, released in September 1991, had advance orders of 4 million copies and entered the pop album charts at #1, a first for a country act.[5] Ropin' the Wind's music was a melange of pop country and honky tonk; hits included Billy Joel's "Shameless", "What She's Doing Now", and "The River". All told, it became his second-best selling album after No Fences. The success of this album further propelled the sales of his first two albums, enabling Brooks to become the first country artist with three albums listed in the pop top 20 in one week.[14]

After spending time in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots, Brooks co-wrote the gospel-country-rock hybrid "We Shall Be Free" to express his desire for tolerance. The song became the first single off his fourth album The Chase. With its message of support for cultural tolerance, the song met with resistance from country radio stations and from the culturally conservative country audience and only reached #12 on the country chart, his first song in three years to fail to make the top ten.[15][16] Nevertheless, the song often received standing ovations when performed in concert, went to #22 in the Christian charts through a marketing deal with Rick Hendrix Company, and earned Brooks a 1993 GLAAD Media Award.[17][18]


Brooks won his first Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1992 for the album Ropin' the Wind. He was awarded the Academy of Country Music award for Entertainer of the Year in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993, and the award for Top Male Vocalist for 1990 and 1991. As a performer and artist he has been compared to fellow country and pop/rock legends, such as the likes of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, Kenny Rogers, Clint Black, George Strait, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and the Eagles.


In 1993, Garth Brooks, who had criticized music stores which sold used CDs since it led to a loss in royalty payments, persuaded Capitol Records not to ship his August 1993 album In Pieces to stores which engaged in such practices. This led to several anti-trust lawsuits against the record label and ended with Capitol shipping the CDs to the stores after all.[19]

Despite the delay in shipping the album to certain stores, In Pieces was another instant number 1 success, selling a total of about 10 million copies world-wide. Some of his fans were upset, however, that the album was not released simultaneously around the world. In the United Kingdom, one of Brooks' most committed fan bases outside the United States, country music disc jockeys, such as Martin Campbell and John Wellington, noted that many fans were buying the album on import; making it the first album to debut in the top 10 of the UK Country album charts before its official release date. Once officially released there, in 1994, the album reached the top spot on the UK Country chart and number two on the UK pop albums chart. That same year "The Red Strokes" became Brooks' first single to make the pop top 40 in the UK, reaching a high of number 13; it was followed by "Standing Outside The Fire", which reached number 23. Previous albums No Fences, Ropin' The Wind and The Chase also remained in the top 30 in the UK.

To support the album, Brooks embarked on a 1994 UK tour, selling out venues such as Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre and London's Wembley Arena. He opened the London radio station, Country 1035 and made a number of general television and radio appearances, where he was often mocked by the presenters. On ITV's regional news show London Tonight, Brooks was described as "a top-selling, rooting tooting, cotton picking, Country and Western star, yeeha!" The nationwide Big Breakfast show's presenters Chris Evans and Paula Yates, commented that "He's selling more records than anyone in the world, but none of us have ever heard of him." Yates then told Brooks that, "Country singers always seem to be weeping over the dead dog and things," and also remarked, "I thought you'd come in here and twiddle your pistol around and be impressed." Although Brooks remained polite, he did observe that Yates was obviously unfamiliar with modern country music. Scores of Brooks fans later wrote to complain about his treatment on the show. Sometime after this, Dwight Yoakam appeared on the same show and after Yates told him, "You seem different from other Country singers we've had on the show," Yoakam replied, "What? All two of us?"

Despite the disdain of the British media, Brooks's overall popularity in the country was evident, with a top disc jockey, Nick Barraclough, referring to Brooks as Garth Vader (a play on Darth Vader) for his "invasion" of the charts and his success as an icon of the country genre. Unlike Alan Jackson, who refused to return to the UK after being treated in a similar manner by the press, Brooks returned in 1996 for more sold-out concerts, although this time his media appearances were mostly restricted to country radio and interviews with magazines.

Elsewhere in the world Brooks was also considered a star, and he enjoyed hit records and sell-out tours in countries including Brazil, throughout Europe, the Far East, New Zealand, and Australia.[20]


Hard rock

In 1994 Brooks paid homage to one of his musical influences when he appeared on the hard rock compilation Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, a collection of Kiss cover songs by popular artists from all genres. As the only country performer to participate, some worried that Brooks would turn his cover of the song originally sung by drummer Peter Criss, "Hard Luck Woman", into a country song. Brooks instead insisted on remaining true to the song, and requested that the members of Kiss perform the music on the track, the only song on the album that the band musically contributed. The unlikely collaboration performed the song live on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in promotion of Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved , and despite its hard-rock appeal, Brooks' version did appear on the country charts.


Setting records

One of the later peaks in Brooks' fame came on August 7, 1997, when he gave a free concert in New York City's Central Park, drawing hundreds of thousands of people in a city that many would say is far removed from the country music world. Estimates of the actual crowd size varied considerably, from 250,000 to 750,000 or even higher, primarily because many people were enjoying the show from outside the full-to-capacity venue.[21] Brooks himself has estimated the crowd at close to 900,000.[22] An additional 14.6 million viewers watched the performance live on HBO.[23] Billy Joel and Don McLean made guest appearances.[21]

After showing that he still had the ability to draw such a large crowd, it was not surprising that Brooks won the award for the ACM Entertainer of the Year in 1998.

The following year the Recording Industry Association of America announced that Garth Brooks was the best-selling solo artist of the 20th century in America.[24] This conclusion drew criticism from the press and many music fans who were convinced that Elvis Presley had sold more records, but had been short-changed in the rankings due to faulty RIAA certification methods during his lifetime.[25][26] Brooks, while proud of his sales accomplishments, deferred to "The King" and stated that he too believed that Presley must have sold more.[25]

The RIAA has since reexamined their methods for counting certifications. Under their revised methods, Presley became the best-selling solo artist in U.S. history, making Brooks the number two solo artist, ranking third overall, as The Beatles have sold more albums than either he or Presley.[27] The revision brought more criticism of the accuracy of the RIAA's figures, this time from Brooks' followers.

On November 5, 2007, Brooks was again named the best selling solo artist in US history, surpassing Presley (but still #2 after the Beatles) after audited sales of 123 million were announced.


Chris Gaines

In 1999 Brooks and his production company Red Strokes Entertainment, with Paramount Pictures, began to develop a movie in which Brooks would star. The Lamb was to have revolved around Chris Gaines, a fictional rock singer and his emotionally conflicted life as a musician in the public eye. To create buzz for the project, Brooks took on the identity of Gaines in the October 1999 album Garth Brooks in ... The Life of Chris Gaines, which was intended as a 'pre-soundtrack' to the film.[28] Brooks also subsequently appeared as Gaines in a television mockumentary for the VH1 series Behind The Music and as the musical guest on an episode of Saturday Night Live which he hosted as himself.

Brooks' endless promotion of the album and the film did not seem to stir much excitement and the success of the Chris Gaines experiment became fairly evident mere weeks after the album was released. Although critics admired Brooks for taking a musical risk, the majority of the American public was either totally bewildered, or completely unreceptive to the idea of Garth Brooks as anything but a pop-country singer.[29] Many of his fans also felt that by supporting the Gaines project they would lose the real Garth Brooks.[30] Sales of the album were unspectacular and although it made it to #2 on the pop album chart, expectations had been higher and retail stores began heavily discounting their oversupply.[31] Poor sales of the album and lack of interest in the film brought the film production to an indefinite hiatus in February 2001 and Gaines quickly and quietly faded into obscurity.[32]

Despite the failure of the Chris Gaines project, Brooks gained his first - and only - US Top 40 pop single in "Lost in You", the first single from the album.




Official retirement

As his career flourished, Brooks seemed frustrated by the conflicts between career and family. He talked of retiring from performing in 1992[15] and 1995, but each time returned to touring. In 1999, possibly also spurred by falling record sales, Brooks appeared on The Nashville Network's Crook & Chase program and again mentioned retirement.[33]

In 1999, Brooks and his wife separated, announcing their plans to divorce on October 9, 2000.[34][35] The divorce became final in 2001.[34]

Two weeks later, on October 26, 2000, Brooks officially announced his retirement from recording and performing.[36] Later that evening, Capitol Records saluted his achievement of selling 100 million albums in the US with a lavish party at Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center.[35]

Brooks's final album, Scarecrow, was released on November 13, 2001. The album did not match the sales levels of Brooks's heyday, but still sold comfortably well, reaching #1 on both the pop and country charts. Although he staged a few performances for promotional purposes, Brooks stated that he would be retired from recording and performing at least until his youngest daughter, Allie, turned 18. Despite ceasing to record new material between 2002 and (most of) 2005, Brooks continued to chart with previously recorded material, including a top 30 placing for "Why Ain't I Running" in 2003 .


Second marriage

In the mid-1990s, many tabloids reported throughout the decade that he was actually having an affair with longtime friend and collaborator Trisha Yearwood. The two have continually denied having had an affair.[37] Following Brooks's divorce, however, the pair did begin dating, and the couple wed on December 10, 2005, at their home in Oklahoma, marking the second marriage for Brooks and the third for Yearwood.


Partial comeback

In 2005 Brooks insisted that he was not touring and did not plan to record any new studio material until 2015. However, in August 2005 it was announced that Brooks had signed a deal with Wal-Mart, leasing them the rights to his back catalog following his split with Capitol.[38][39] Three months later, Brooks and Wal-Mart issued The Limited Series, a six-CD box set containing past material and a Lost Sessions disc with eleven previously unissued recordings. This set marked the first time in history that a musician had signed an exclusive music distribution deal with a single retailer.[38] The set sold more than 500,000 physical copies on its issue date, proving that Brooks still had a large fan base, and by the first week in December 2005 had sold over 1 million physical copies.[3]

Brooks took a brief break from retirement early in 2005 to perform for several charity causes. With Yearwood, he sang John Fogerty's "Who'll Stop the Rain" on the Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast nationwide telethon for Hurricane Katrina relief.[40] He also released a new single, "Good Ride Cowboy", as a tribute to his late friend, rodeo star and country singer, Chris LeDoux.[4]

In early 2006 Wal-Mart issued The Lost Sessions as a single CD apart from the boxed set, with extra tracks including a top 25 duet with Yearwood, "Love Will Always Win".[41] The couple were later nominated for a "Best Country Collaboration With Vocals" Grammy Award for the song.

On August 18, 2007, Brooks announced plans for a new boxed set called The Ultimate Hits. The new set features two discs containing 30 hits, a DVD featuring some new music videos and three new songs, and a bonus track. The album's first single, "More Than a Memory", was released to radio on August 27, 2007.[42] "More Than a Memory" debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, becoming the highest-debuting single in the chart's history. The previous record had been set only one week earlier, when Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink" debuted at #16.[43]


Charitable activities

In 1999, Garth Brooks began the Teammates for Kids Foundation[44] which provides financial aid to charities for children. The organization breaks down into three categories spanning three different sports.

  • Touch 'Em All Foundation - Baseball Division
  • Top Shelf - Hockey Division
  • Touchdown - Football Division

The foundation enlists players to donate a predetermined sum of money depending on their game performance. Brooks has participated in spring training for the San Diego Padres in 1998 and 1999, the New York Mets in 2000, and most recently with the Kansas City Royals in 2004 to promote his foundation.

Brooks is also a fundraiser for various other charities, including a number of children's charities and famine relief. He has also donated at least $1 million to wildlife causes. It was announced that Garth would perform a charity concert on January 25 and 26, 2008 at the Staples Center for the victims of the recent California Wildfires. On December 1st, tickets went on sale and sold out within minutes, prompting them to announce 3 more shows. All 5 L.A. shows sold out in 59 minutes. CBS aired the first of these concerts (January 25th at 9 pm) live, giving viewers a chance to donate to the Firefighters Relief efforts.[45]





  • Garth Brooks is the only artist to have seven albums debut #1 on both The Billboard 200 and Billboard's Top Country Albums charts: Ropin' the Wind, The Chase, In Pieces, Sevens, The Limited Series, Double Live, Scarecrow, in addition Fresh Horses debuted at #1 on the country chart and #2 on the pop 200.
  • Capitol Records shipped 5 million copies of The Chase which, at the time, was the largest initial shipment in music history.
  • Fresh Horses was the first album to have 8 out of 10 tracks on the country music singles charts at the same time, while his follow-up album Sevens broke that record, with 12 out of 14 tracks on the singles charts.
  • Garth Brooks was the first artist to debut a live album at #1 on two charts (Double Live).[citation needed]
  • Double Live is the best-selling live album in music history and the fastest selling country music album ever.[citation needed]
  • Brooks had three albums at the top of the Billboard pop charts at the same time in 1998 (Sevens, The Limited Series, and Double Live). He was the first to do this since Elton John in 1975.
  • Brooks has six albums certified diamond (more than 10 million copies), a record for a male solo performer, and tied for the most ever with The Beatles.
  • To date, the RIAA have certified his albums for shipments of 128 million in the United States.