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Garth Brooks was, quite simply, the voice of country music for the better part of The Nineties. In the entirety of the country genre, only the Eagles, Kenny Rogers, and Elvis Presley have sold as many albums as Garth Brooks. His Ropin' The Wind was one of the first albums to be certified Diamond by the RIAA, and was the first country album ever to debut at #1...on the Billboard 200 album chart that tracks all albums, not just country albums. (For reference, it held the spot between Metallica's Black Album and Use Your Illusion II by Guns N' Roses.)Although he wasn't the best singer of country songs, he may well have been the best showman country music ever had. With a half-dozen nationally televised concerts, including memorable ones in Texas Stadium (which installed two bridges to support his antics; the "Garth Bars" remained until the stadium was demolished), Central Park in New York, and Croke Park in Ireland.About the only thing Garth did that didn't turn to gold was make an alter ego, Chris Gaines. This was because there was supposed to be a movie and it was supposed to be the soundtrack for it. Because there was no movie, there was no context, and it looked like some crazy ego trip. Unbelievably, this failed alter-ego project gave Brooks his sole US Top 40 hit with the ballad "Lost in You." Until that point he had never actually pursued pop radio, except through a cover of KISS' "Hard Luck Woman."For most of the 21st century, he has been in semi-retirement with his wife, fellow country singer Trisha Yearwood, and his daughters from his first wife. In November 2009, he announced that he would un-retire yet again to do a show in Vegas.In 2012, Brooks was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame, an honor many said that – given his accomplishments – was inevitable.Brooks came out of retirement again in late 2013 for a concert in Las Vegas. The concert was included as part of a box set that also comprised four discs' worth of cover songs. He then announced a full comeback in 2014, with an upcoming studio album for RCA and a full tour with Yearwood as the opening act. The first single released from the album was "People Loving People".
Garth Brooks (1989)
No Fences (1990)
Ropin' the Wind (1991)
The Chase (1992)
Beyond the Season (1992)
In Pieces (1993)
The Hits (1994)
Fresh Horses (1995)
The Limited Series (1998)note a box set of his first six studio albums, each of which had a new track added
Garth Brooks and the Magic of Christmas (1999)note reissued in 2001 as Call Me Claus
The Lost Sessions (2005)note mostly composed of outtakes
The Ultimate Hits (2007)
Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences (2013)
Man Against Machine (2014)
"I've got tropes in low places"...
Arc Number: Sevens had a ton of sevens hidden in the album art (including "VII" fashioned from the text of the album title), and 777,777 special "first editions" were issued.
Ascended Fanboy: Used his popularity to fulfill his livelong dream of guest-starring on The Muppet Show (or at least ''a'' Muppet show) as well as perform on a tribute album for the band he claims inspired his entire career: KISS.
Audience Participation Song: A big part of his success. Very present on Double Live; the crowd sings along on nearly everything. Most notably on the version of "Friends in Low Places"; coming out of the second chorus, he vamps on the A chord while the audience cheers, then yells, "WHAT?!?" before lampshading the presence of the song's "third verse" (which he's only ever done in concerts, and which at that point had no official recording). He then lampshades this trope by saying "I think the friends in low places should sing the third verse", which they do.
An even more present example on "Double Live" is the song "Unanswered Prayers". Brooks sings six words of the first verse, then turns the entire rest of the song over to the audience, who are singing it loudly enough to be picked up on the microphones recording the album. After those first words, Brooks' only addition to the song is at the end, when he laughingly says, "Very cool!"
Corpsing: Does it a couple of times on Double Live. The first time basically made "Unanswered Prayers" a full Audience Participation Song, and the second is right at the end of the Double Live exclusive "It's Your Song".
Cover Album: Garth packs four of them into the Blame It All On My Roots box set, each tuned to a genre that influenced his style: Country Classics, Classic Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul, and The Melting Pot.
The Cover Changes The Meaning: "Friends in Low Places." A fellow country singer and newcomer named Mark Chesnutt was the first to record this Dewayne Blackwell-Earl Bud Lee-penned song, and was intended to be about a man who wallows in despair on the night of his ex-girlfriend's wedding. Chesnutt's version – which actually hit the market a month after Brooks' No Fences album was released – is faithful to the original intent. Brooks (who actually recorded the demo in 1989) decided to make it a raucous kiss-off song where the guy goes out and parties and tells his ex, in essence, "screw you!" To say Brooks succeeded would be an understatement.
Cover Version: His version of KISS' "Hard Luck Woman" on the Kiss My Ass album was performed with the band members themselves.
"Shameless" was originally written as a Jimi Hendrix pastiche by Billy Joel, on Joel's 1989 Storm Front album.
Disproportionate Retribution: In the song "Papa Loved Mama", when long-haul trucker Papa finds out that Mama's not only cheating on him, but has been for a while, his response is to kill her and her lover by driving through the motel room they are in with his semi truck.
Domestic Abuse: The secondary theme for the video for "The Thunder Rolls" (with the song's primary theme being the cheating husband).
Do Not Go Gentle: "Ireland": "They will storm us in the morning / When the sunlight turns to sky / Death is waiting for its dance now / Fate has sentenced us to die" ... "And as I look up all around me / I see the ragged, tired, and torn / I tell them to make ready / 'Cause we're not waiting for the morn"
Dual Meaning Chorus: "The Thunder Rolls", again. From the literal thunder of the storm, to the emotional thunder of a woman scorned, to the thunderlike sound of a gunshot.
Early Installment Weirdness: His first album was less focused and ("The Dance" notwithstanding) generally less rock- and pop-influenced. "Not Counting You" in particular sounds like it could've been cut by nearly anyone.
Lampshaded Double Entendre: From "Two Of A Kind, Workin' On A Full House": "We really fit together if you know what I'm talking about"
Love Letter Lunacy: The subject of "Unsigned Letter" from In The Life Of Chris Gaines receives a mysterious three-word letter that just read "come to me" and she ends up traveling to Boston to find out who wrote the letter, with no specific outcome mentioned.
Motor Mouth: The rapid-fire verses of "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)". And he actually sings it faster in concert.
Nice Hat: He always wears a black cowboy hat. (Well, sometimes he changes it up and wears a white cowboy hat.) He is, after all, the codifier for the country music "hat act" (where George Strait is the Ur Example).
"Unanswered Prayers", also. Here the singer thanks God for not answering his prayer to give him his Old Flame, which would've prevented him from having his current wife.
One Mario Limit: Zig-zagged. A singer whose real name was Douglas Jackson Brooks changed his name to Doug Stone to avoid confusion with Garth. Brooks& Dunn, on the other hand...
On the third hand, Garth is the more prominent name, and the only one that measures up is Mr. Algar, who was created before Garth's rise to fame. And perhaps Mr. Merenghi in England. And perhaps a prominent former English footballer and football presenter whose name is just one letter away...
Protest Song: "We Shall Be Free" is a kinder, gentler type, but not without its controversy.
Rearrange the Song: His cover of Aerosmith's "Fever" changes the lyrics considerably; instead of a drugged-up guy having a wild night out, it's about a rodeo rider getting "in the zone".
Record Producer: Garth worked with producer Allen Reynolds on all of his "main" albums, with Don Was producing the Chris Gaines album. After Reynolds retired in the mid-2000s, he had his engineer Mark Millernote not the same person as the lead singer of Sawyer Brown handle Blame It All on My Roots (plus Steve Buckingham on one track) and Man Against Machine.
Brooks also produced one of Ty England's albums (and he covered two of the songs on that album).
Rerelease the Song: "Wild Horses", a track from his critically-acclaimed No Fences album, got released as a single in 2001, ten years after the album came out.
Rockers Smash Guitars: Well, technically he's a country rocker, but he still did so, baseball-style, during his first two live NBC concerts.
Serial Escalation: In 1991, "The Thunder Rolls" debuted at #19, making it the second-highest debut on the country charts. Fifteen years later, he would tie the record (which was set by Eddie Rabbitt's "Every Which Way but Loose") with the #18 debut of "Good Ride Cowboy." The next two years saw Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney debut singles at #17 and #16, respectively... and only one week after Kenny's debut, Garth's "More Than a Memory" debuted at #1.
To put this in perspective: The country music singles charts are tabulated entirely by airplay, not by physical sales or downloads like the all-genre Hot 100 and certain other charts. The nearly 120 stations surveyed by Billboard each had to play "More Than a Memory" an average of 30 to 35 times in one week. What's more, Garth was on an independent label at the time.
Another perspective maker: Garth's album Ropin' the Wind was the first country album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. This is the chart for all albums, not just country. Perspective? It first held the position between Metallica's Black album and Use Your Illusion II by Guns N' Roses. Then it went back to #1 after two weeks of Illusion, and then was knocked off the spot by U2's Achtung Baby and Michael Jackson's Dangerous. Then in January 1992, it knocked off Nirvana's Nevermind off the top spot, only a week after Nirvana had done the same to Dangerous, stayed there for two more weeks before Nevermind returned to #1 on 1 February, then returned with a vengeance on 8 February and stayed at #1 until 4 April, when it was pushed off by the Wayne's World soundtrack. Basically, Ropin' the Wind was #1 four separate times. And guess what happened whenever Metallica, Guns N' Roses, U2, Michael Jackson and Nirvana took the #1 position instead? Why, Ropin' the Wind stayed constantly on #2, of course, except for the weeks of 5 and 12 October 1991 where it was #3 after Use Your Illusion I landed at #2 instead.
Shout-Out: He name-drops singer/rodeo star Chris LeDoux in "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)". Although Chris was a No Hit Wonder (his biggest charter was a collaboration with Garth entitled "Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy"), he and Garth became closely associated, especially after Chris' death in 2005, which led to Garth's tribute song "Good Ride Cowboy".
Small Town Boredom: "No One Gets Off in This Town". Also "Main Street" from In The Life Of Chris Gaines.
Something Completely Different: Again, the Chris Gaines album. Even on that, there's an example in the last cut, "My Love Tells Me So", which is from the band that Chris breaks out from. Garth/Chris is not the lead singer on the track, though he does perform a spoken-word riff during the song's bridge.
10-Minute Retirement: Wasn't he supposed to retire after Scarecrow? Yeah, but Chris LeDoux died, so let's put out "Good Ride Cowboy" in his honor and tack it onto a collection of previously-unrecorded scraps from earlier on. What's that? Another Greatest Hits package? Fine, send out "More Than a Memory" and have it debut at #1.
Of course, the primary reason for his retirement is to spend more time with his daughters, but the itch to perform is strong.
He's announced his intention to return to touring after his youngest daughter graduates.
Terror At Make Out Point: "The Night Will Only Know" has two married people (as in married to other people) witnessing a murder during their night of passion in the backseat. The murderer gets off scot-free because the lovers can't reveal what they know about the murder without also revealing their affair, resulting in the victim's death being ruled a suicide.
Thirteen Is Unlucky: Garth has admitted to being a triskaidekaphobic. Double Live has 13 songs on the first disc; to keep the last one from being number 13, the official track listing skips from 12 to 14, and "track 13" is just three seconds of applause between songs.
Unplugged Version: Brooks' Double Live version of "Unanswered Prayers" is just him, his guitar, and 50,000 of his closest friends.
White Flag: "White Flag" from In the Life of Chris Gaines.
Your Cheating Heart: Special mention to "The Night Will Only Know", where a couple each cheating on their spouses are trapped into silence, allowing a murderer to go free.
...just wait 'til I finish this glass... then sweet little lady, I'll head back to the bar... and you can kiss my ass!