Troyal Garth Brooks (born February 7, 1962) was, quite simply, the voice of country music for the better part of The '90s. 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 The Black Album by Metallica and Use Your Illusion II by Guns N' Roses.)
Although he wasn't the best singer of country songs, he may well be the best showman country music has ever had. He's had half a 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, Croke Park in Ireland, The Wynn in Las Vegas, and Notre Dame in Indiana.
The vast majority of his albums during his peak on Capitol Records drew from the same pool of session musicians (Bruce Bouton, Mark Casstevens, Mike Chapman, Rob Hajacos, Chris Leuzinger, Milton Sledge, and Bobby Wood), longtime producer Allen Reynolds, and longtime sound engineer Mark Millernote , collectively known as the "G-Men". Recurring writers such as Pat Alger, Tony Arata, Kim Williams, Victoria Shaw, and Kent Blazy shaped some of his biggest hits, although he was no slouch to writing his own material or covering obscurities from others. His most famous songs range from slick ballads ("The Dance", "Unanswered Prayers", "What She's Doing Now", "The River") to large anthemic songs ("Friends in Low Places", "Shameless", "More than a Memory"), with various other styles in between.
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."
Going into the 21st century, in the wake of his divorce from his first wife, he entered into semi-retirement in order to spend time with his daughters, intending to return to music full time in 2014 when his youngest turned 18. In 2005, he married fellow country singer Trisha Yearwood, who had been his opening act on his tours for years and done multiple duets with him (most notably "In Another's Eyes"), and whom he first began dating in 2000. During this semi-retirement, he would occasionally perform at special occasions and benefit concerts. From 2009 to 2014, he had a Las Vegas residency titled Garth at Wynn, where he would periodically perform a couple of shows every few months at the Encore Theatre.
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 a studio album for RCA Records, Man Against Machine, and a full tour which lasted over three years and featured Yearwood in every show. The first single released from the album was "People Loving People". The album, Man Against Machine, was released in November 2014 and was certified Platinum in less than two months. In September 2016, he got his own channel on Sirius XM radio, which he kicked off with his first-ever concert at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium. Later that year came his next original album, Gunslinger, from which "Ask Me How I Know" would eventually become his 20th Number 1 single on the country charts.
- 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)
- Sevens (1997)
- The Limited Series (1998)note
- Double Live (1998)
- In the Life of Chris Gaines (1999, as Chris Gaines)
- Garth Brooks and the Magic of Christmas (1999)note
- Scarecrow (2001)
- The Lost Sessions (2005)note
- The Ultimate Hits (2007)
- Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences (2013)
- Man Against Machine (2014)
- Christmas Together (2016, with Trisha Yearwood)
- Gunslinger (2016)
- Triple Live (2018)note
- The Legacy Collection (2019)note
- Fun (2020)
"I've got tropes in low places"...
- Advertised Extra: Garth was one on Trisha Yearwood's "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart" (which he co-wrote), and had one with Steve Wariner on "Longneck Bottle". Both he and Wariner sang background vocals on their respective songs (though Wariner also contributed with guitar.)
- The Anti-Nihilist: "The Change" is all about this.This heart still believes
That love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage, and so many say
That love is all but pointless
In madness such as this
It's like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss
- 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.
- 18 is another one, if "8teen" from Gunslinger is any indication.
- The Artifact: Despite being slicker ballads that are out of step with his established style, "The Dance" and "If Tomorrow Never Comes" have remained in his setlist due to their enduring popularity.
- 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, and something he will do at every opportunity. 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!"
- Bitter Wedding Speech: "Friends in Low Places". Better: Singer wasn't invited.
- Bolivian Army Ending: A rare musical version of this in "Ireland.""And there are no words to be spoken, just a look to say goodbye"I draw a breath and night is broken, as I scream our battle cry"
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": "Not Counting You":Not counting you, I've never had a heartache
Not counting you, I never have been blue
There's no exceptions to the rule, I've never been nobody's fool
I've never lost in love, not counting you
- Calling the Old Man Out: "The Night I Called the Old Man Out."
- Cassandra Truth: In "Cowboy Bill" - although the children all believe his stories (and are proven correct in the end), the adults of the town do not.
- Christmas Songs: Beyond the Season (1992), Garth Brooks and the Magic of Christmas (1999), and Christmas Together (2016). He also included another Christmas song, "Belleau Wood", on Sevens.
- Chronological Album Title: Sevens. The album cover also has several sevens as an Easter Egg of sorts, including "VII" fashioned from the name of the album.
- The City vs. the Country: "Alabama Clay" is about a young farming man who moves away to the city because he's bored of the farm... only to move back to the farm because he hates the city life and his lover has had a baby.
- 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 Gender:
- Garth wrote "What He's Doing Now" for Crystal Gayle in 1990. He then recorded it himself as "What She's Doing Now" a few years later.
- Triple Live features a cover of Ashley McBryde's "Girl Goin' Nowhere", gender-flipped into "Guy Goin' Nowhere".
- 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.
- Aerosmith's "The Fever", upon getting the Garth treatment, was changed from its original topic to a portrayal of a rodeo rider and the thrills he gets from his profession.
- Cover Version:
- 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.''Oh, the picture in the paper showed the scene real well
Poppa's rig was buried in the local motel
The desk clerk said he saw it all real clear
He never hit the brakes, and he was shifting gears
- Distinct Double Album: Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences is a four-album box set of cover songs, each sorted by genre: country, rock, soul, and "the melting pot" (covers that don't fit the other three discs' themes).
- Domestic Abuse: The secondary theme for the video for "The Thunder Rolls" (with the song's primary theme being the cheating husband).
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Borderline example with "Rodeo". The verses are about how being a rodeo cowboy will ruin your relationship with your wife, and your health, and your life in general... and then the chorus is a rocking anthem to how awesome it is to be out there participating in the rodeo!
- 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"
- Drowning My Sorrows: Both "Friends in Low Places" and "Two Piña Coladas".
- 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.
- "What She's Doing Now"...first he wonders What She's Doing Now...then he wonders if she knows What She's Doing Now to him (or, more specifically, her memory).
- "Wolves". The first verse refers to actual wolves who have killed some of the narrator's cattle, while the other two verses refer to the metaphor "keep the wolf from the door" as the narrator has noticed that his neighbors are struggling with poverty and debt, and he doesn't want to be "the one the wolves pulled down" just like they were.
- 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 (although it's also the only time besides the album cut "Mr. Right" from The Chase that Garth wrote anything entirely by himself).
- Feeling Their Age: "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" is all about this trope - a cowboy starting to feel older and noting that his competition's getting younger.
- Fun with Acronyms: "American Honky-Tonk Bar Association":Do not delay, contact today
Your A. H. B. A., your A. H. B. A.
- Genre Roulette: In the Life of Chris Gaines. Justified as it's supposed to be a greatest hits album for the fictional musician, and one of the songs doesn't even have Garth Brooks performing on it.
- Ghost Story: "The Beaches of Cheyenne", although according to Garth it wasn't originally intended to be one. In fact, he claims it was supposed to be about a businessman dreaming of being a rodeo rider, but a bit of Pronoun Trouble changed its direction completely.
- Grounded Forever: The female protagonist in "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)" shirks her curfew until the morning, and has been rumored to have been "grounded 'til she's dead". However, she escapes by the end of the verse.
- Idiosyncratic Album Theming: Garth supposedly puts his favorite song on each album as the last track. This is why, when his first six albums were reissued for The Limited Series in 1998, the bonus tracks were put in the middle instead of the end.
- The Lad-ette: The subject of "That Girl Is a Cowboy" is about a woman who outperforms the narrator at various cowboy tasks and leads him to declare that "sometimes the best cowboys ain't cowboys at all."
- 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".
- Loudness War: Inverted with Man Against Machine, as many fans feel that Mark Miller actually managed to underproduce some songs, causing many of them (particularly "Ask Me How I Know") to sound like unfinished demos instead of full fledged radio songs.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "It's Midnight Cinderella", "Longneck Bottle", "Rodeo or Mexico", "Dive Bar"
- Man Versus Machine: "Man Against Machine", of course.
- MayDecember Romance: "That Summer". The pairing is inverted in Man Against Machine's ''She's Tired Of Boys," which matches a younger woman with a mature man.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Longneck Bottle" is all of 2:17.
- Motor Mouth: The rapid-fire verses of "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)". And he actually sings it faster in concert.
- Naked Apron: The female protagonist in "Somewhere Other Than the Night": "She was standing in the kitchen with nothing but her apron on."
- 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).
- Old Flame Fizzle:
- "Every Time That It Rains" has the narrator recalling a former lover that he met at a diner during a rainstorm. He goes back to the diner to try and relive the memories, but finds that their former chemistry is no longer present.
- "Unanswered Prayers". 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.
- Personal Effects Reveal: "Cowboy Bill" gets a pretty good one.He was clutchin' a badge that said "Texas Ranger"
And an old yaller letter sayin' "Texas is proud"
- Protest Song: "We Shall Be Free", inspired by the 1992 Los Angeles riots, has Garth protesting against what he sees as obstacles to true freedom. Among the ones mentioned are xenophobia, racism, homophobia, poverty, and world hunger.
- 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, his sound engineer Mark Miller got promoted to producer. Brooks himself produced one of Ty England's albums (and he covered two of the songs on that album).
- Re-release 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.
- Rock-Star Song: "The Old Stuff" has him reminiscing about the smaller scale of his early pre-fame gigs, when he didn't have a bus and a touring crew, and "the old stuff" (his most famous songs) were new.
- Rockers Smash Guitars: Well, technically he's a country rocker, but he still did so, baseball-style, during his first two live NBC concerts.
- Self-Deprecation: Brooks has often joked about his fluctuating weight, and once famously said that he thought he looked "like a thumb wearing a cowboy hat".
- 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 at the time were 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. Even better, his previous album, No Fences (aka the one with "Friends in Low Places") was on the charts at the same time, and could only peak at #3 thanks in large part to Ropin' the Wind.
- He name-drops singer/rodeo star Chris LeDoux in "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)". Although Chris was fairly obscure, he and Garth became closely associated, especially after Chris' death in 2005, which led to Garth's tribute song "Good Ride Cowboy".
- He also name-drops George Strait in "Ain't Goin' Down ('Till the Sun Comes Up)"
- Small Town Boredom: "Nobody Gets Off in This Town" is about how boring a small unspecified rural town can get:>Now let me see if I can set the scene
It's a one-dog town and he's old and mean
There's one stop light but it's always green
Nobody gets off in this town...
- 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.
- Suicide by Sea: "The Beaches of Cheyenne" tells of a woman who upon learning her husband had died in a rodeo ran out into the ocean and drowned herself.
- Telephone Song: "Callin' Baton Rouge" is about a truck driver attempting to call up a woman he'd had a relationship with in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- 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.
- 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.
- 13 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. Fun similarly skips track 13 by way of a blank track.
- This Is a Song: Occurs twice in "Ask Me How I Know", which has the lyrics "Go on and shake your head and tell me that I'm wrong / Say, 'I'm just another fool and this is just another song'" and later on, "And you best put this song on repeat / Maybe then you won't end up like me".
- Unplugged Version: Brooks' Double Live version of "Unanswered Prayers" is just him, his guitar, and 50,000 of his closest friends.
- ...just wait 'til I finish this glass... then sweet little lady, I'll head back to the bar... and you can kiss my ass!