Garth Brooks is a pivotal figure in the history of country music, no matter how much some country purists would like to deny it. With his commercially savvy fusion of post-Merle Haggard country, honky tonk, post-folk-rock sensitive singer/songwriter sensibilities, and '70s arena rock dramatics, Brooks brought country music to a new audience in the '90s -- namely, a mass audience. Before Brooks, it was inconceivable for a country artist to go multi-platinum. He shattered that barrier in 1991, when his second album, No Fences, began its chart domination, and its follow-up, Ropin' the Wind, became the first country album to debut at the top of the pop charts; No Fences would eventually sell a record-shattering 13 million copies. After Garth, country music had successfully carved a permanent place for itself on the pop charts. In the process, it lost a lot of the traditionalism that had always been its hallmark, but that is precisely why Brooks is important.
Garth Brooks is the son of Troyal and Colleen Carroll Brooks. Colleen was a country singer herself, recording a handful of records for Capitol in the mid-'50s that never experienced any chart success. As a child, Garth was interested in music and frequently sang at family gatherings, but he concentrated on athletics. He received a partial athletic scholarship at Oklahoma State University as a javelin tosser, but he wound up dropping the sport during his collegiate career. While he was at college, Brooks began singing in local Oklahoma clubs, often with lead guitarist Ty England.
After he graduated with an advertising degree in December of 1984, Garth Brooks decided to try to forge out a career as a country singer. In 1985 he traveled to Nashville with hopes of being discovered by a record label. Just 23 hours after arriving in Nashville, he returned to Oklahoma, frustrated with the industry, his prospects, and his naïve dreams. Brooks continued to perform in Oklahoma clubs, and in 1986, he married his college girlfriend, Sandy Mahl.
The couple moved to Nashville in 1987, this time with a better idea of how the music industry operated. Brooks began making connections with various songwriters and producers, and he sang on a lot of songwriter's demo tapes. Although he had made several connections within the industry and had a powerful management team, every label in town was refusing to sign him. In 1988, six weeks after Capitol Records passed on his demo, one of the label's executives saw Brooks sing at a local club. Impressed with the performance, the executive convinced the label to sign Garth.
Brooks recorded his first album with producer Allen Reynolds at the end of 1988; the self-titled debut appeared early in 1989. The album was an instant success, with its first single, "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," climbing into the country Top Ten. Garth's debut was a success, crossing over into the pop album charts, but it was overshadowed by the blockbuster appeal of Clint Black, as well other similar new male vocalists like Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson. Within a year, Brooks would tower above them all with his surprise, widespread success.
Garth Brooks had three other hit singles -- the number one "If Tomorrow Never Comes," the number two "Not Counting You," and the number one "The Dance" -- but it was his second album, No Fences, that established him as a superstar. No Fences was released in the fall of 1990, preceded by the massive hit single "Friends in Low Places." No Fences spent 23 weeks at the top of the country charts and sold 700,000 copies within the first ten days of its release. Throughout 1990 and 1991, Brooks had a string of number one country hits from the album, including "Unanswered Prayers," "Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House," and "The Thunder Rolls." By 1993, No Fences would sell over ten million copies.
Not only did his record sales break all the accepted country conventions, but so did Garth Brooks' concerts. By the end of 1990, he was selling out stadiums within minutes and was putting on stadium-sized shows, patterned after '70s rock extravaganzas. Brooks used a cordless, headset microphone so he could run around his large stage. He had an elaborate light show, explosions, and even a harness so he could swing out above the crowd and sing to them. It was the first time any country artist had incorporated such rock & roll techniques into stage shows.
Ropin' the Wind, Brooks' third album, was released in September of 1991 and became the first country record to debut at the top of the pop charts. Ropin' the Wind matched the success of No Fences, selling over ten million copies within its first two years of release and spawning the number one hit singles "Shameless," "What She's Doing Now," and "The River."
By the end of 1991, Brooks had become a genuine popular music phenomenon -- even his 1992 Christmas album, Beyond the Season, went multi-platinum -- and there were no signs of his momentum slowing down. Naturally, a backlash began to develop in the fall of 1992, beginning with the release of "We Shall Be Free," the first single from his fourth album. Featuring a strong gospel underpinning, the single stalled at number 12 and many radio stations refused to play it. It was indicative of the eclectic nature of his forthcoming album, The Chase, which pushed the boundaries of contemporary country. The Chase debuted at number one upon its October 1992 release and by the end of the year, it sold over five million copies. Nevertheless, that number was half the size of the figures for his two previous albums and there was speculation in the media that Brooks' career had already peaked.
Sensing that he was in danger of losing his core audience, Brooks returned to straight country with 1993's In Pieces. The album was critically acclaimed and sold several million copies, though it was clear that Brooks would not reach the stratospheric commercial heights of No Fences and Ropin' the Wind again. Even so, he remained one of the most successful artists in popular music, one of the few guaranteed to sell millions of records with each new album, as well as sell out concerts around the world.
The Hits, which was only available for a year, was released in the fall of 1994 and would eventually sell over eight million albums. Brooks released Fresh Horses, his first album of new material in two years, in November of 1995; within six months of its release, it had sold over three million copies. Despite its promising start, Fresh Horses plateaued quickly, topping out at quadruple platinum -- a healthy number for any artist, but a little disappointing considering Brooks' superstar status. Brooks decided to push his seventh album, appropriately titled Sevens, very hard to confirm his superstar status. Originally, it was scheduled to be released in August of 1997, when he would promote it with a huge concert in Central Park. Plans went awry when Capitol Records experienced a huge management shakeup, leaving many of his contacts at the label out in the cold. Upset at the new management, Brooks held back the release of Sevens until he received commitment for a major marketing push for the album. He went ahead and performed the Central Park concert, which received major coverage in the media. On the strength of the concert, Capitol acquiesced to Brooks' demands, and Sevens was released in November of 1997. Sevens catapulted to number one upon its release and quickly went multi-platinum over the holiday season.
The following spring, Brooks pulled his first six albums out of print and issued The Limited Series, a box set that contained all six records plus bonus tracks. Once all two million copies of The Limited Series were sold, the individual albums would remain out of print until their tenth anniversary, when they would be released only on DVD audio. The Double Live set followed in late 1998, and its sales were brisk but not quite as heavy as projected. In the spring of 1998, Brooks unsuccessfully tried out for the San Diego Padres pro baseball team, a major indication of his growing desire to expand his success beyond country music.
Once it became clear that professional baseball wasn't in his future, he became fascinated with film, specifically starring in The Lamb, a supposed thriller about a conflicted, tortured rock star called Chris Gaines. He was determined to win the role, and he did after extensive lobbying. Sometime in the spring of 1999, the film was given the green light with Babyface as a producer and Brooks as the star. During pre-production, Brooks decided the best way to prep for the role was to become Chris Gaines. He invented a brooding, leather-clad image and filled in holes in Gaines' back story by inventing biographies and a musical history. The most important piece in the puzzle was a collection of Gaines' "greatest hits," since it would prime audiences for the big-budget spectacular of The Lamb, scheduled for late 2000. So, Brooks jumped the gun, recording a set of 13 songs -- as Chris Gaines -- that would fill in the fictional singer's history.
As the Chris Gaines album was about to hit stores, Brooks' new persona was revealed to the public. Since the machinations of The Lamb were only known to music insiders and fans who religiously followed the trades, Brooks' sudden re-emergence as a slimmed-down, soul-patched, shaggy-haired soulful pop crooner was utterly bizarre to almost every observer. There was a massive PR campaign to shed light on Chris Gaines, complete with a TV special, but the details were so convoluted that it couldn't be explained easily. In the Life of Chris Gaines was released at the end of September 1999, and although it entered the charts at number two, it was a major commercial disappointment; by the time Christmas rolled around, some major stores were offering heavy discounts on the record in hopes of clearing out unsold stock. Fan bewilderment over the Gaines project also likely hurt sales of Brooks' second holiday record, Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas, a traditional pop-styled outing that appeared just two months later.
Brooks kept a low profile through most of 2000, as the disastrous marketplace showing of the Chris Gaines album effectively scuttled plans for The Lamb. His personal life was also in turmoil, as he and his wife announced that they were divorcing in October of 2000. By the time the divorce was finalized the following year, Brooks was on his way to retirement, choosing to retreat from music and concentrate on fatherhood. He announced that his next album, Scarecrow, would be his last and it was released to appropriate fanfare that November, debuting at number one on the Billboard pop and country charts, but failing to generate a hit single bigger than "Wrapped Up In You," which peaked at five.
After the release of Scarecrow, Brooks eased into retirement, spending the next few years quietly and not resurfacing in the public eye until he had a busy 2006. Toward the end of that year, he married country singer Trisha Yearwood on December 10, but prior to that, he struck a deal with Wal-Mart to become the exclusive retailer for his back catalog. The first release under this deal was a new box set called The Limited Series that collected all the albums he released after his first box set called The Limited Series. This second Limited Series was released in time for the holiday season of 2005 and also included a new disc of outtakes called The Lost Sessions which was later released as an individual disc in 2006. The Lost Sessions featured a duet with Yearwood called "Love Will Always Win," which climbed to 23 on the country charts in '06, a modest placing that was nevertheless his biggest hit since "Wrapped Up In You." ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Certified by the RIAA as the #1 selling solo artist in US history, Garth Brooks has sold in excess of 128 million albums. He is the only solo artist in RIAA history to have 6 albums top the 10 million mark. His most recent release The Ultimate Hits has been certified 5 x platinum. This year Garth became the first artist to put out a simultaneous edition of his latest collection for a charitable cause. November 6, 2007 saw the launch of the pink edition of The Ultimate hits available only at the Susan G Komen website. His body of work – including the groundbreaking No Fences, Ropin’ The Wind, The Hits, and Double Live – propelled country music as a genre to the front pages of newspapers worldwide and the covers of magazines, to the point where Forbes declared on its cover, “Country Conquers Rock” and featured Garth in a major music piece. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Garth Brooks is the top-selling solo artist of the 20th century.
Assessing his career, the UK’s Country Music International determined that, “Garth Brooks has taken country music further than any other performer. He has reached the widest possible audience, gained phenomenal success, yet still retained the basic ingredients of country music. There is no compromise.”
It has been said that through the 1990s Garth's only real competition was himself. He brought daring individualism and a love of music, ranging from working class blues and honky tonk to bluegrass and arena rock, to the musical table. And he had the talent to serve it up tastily. His easy-going, approachable charisma was matched only by his fearless willingness to take chances and step outside the lines. He has had an unprecedented run so far, and opened the doors for many more country artists to follow. The youngest of six children, Garth was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on February 7, 1962. Four years later the Brooks family moved to Yukon, where his father Troyal, a former Marine, worked as a draftsman in the oil industry. His mother, the former Colleen Carroll, recorded for Capitol Records in the mid-1950s and performed with Red Foley on the Ozark Jubilee. But Colleen wasn’t Garth’s only musical inspiration around the house. His father played guitar, teaching Garth his first chords, while his sister Betsy “…could play anything with strings or keys.”
Musical influences at the Brooks home were wide ranging. Troyal and Colleen loved country artists like Merle Haggard and George Jones. Garth’s siblings had tastes that stretched from Janis Joplin and Townes Van Zandt to Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Boston and Journey. Garth listened to it all, especially drawn to singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg.
The Brooks household was fertile ground for creativity and spontaneity backed by a steady sense of reality. Colleen, known as “the happy child” while she was growing up, fostered a confident, free-spiritedness in her children. “Mom wasn’t above telling little white lies to make her children feel good,” Garth has laughed. “Once when I messed up in football, she told me that the guy sitting next to her in the bleachers was yelling for the coach to send me back in. Later I found out she invented the story just to make me feel better.” Troyal was the realist in the family, mindful of the importance of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in life. The combination of those character traits developed on Yukon Avenue proved invaluable to Garth’s professional life. He became a risk-taker, willing to put everything on the line to make a better recording, a more exciting performance. Yet he paid careful attention to his career, his business dealings and his employees.
In high school Garth was more interested in sports than music, playing football, baseball, track and field for the Yukon Millers. But by the time he started college at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, he was beginning to pick and sing, jamming with friends in Iba Hall, the athletic dorm where he lived. Although he was attending college on a partial athletic scholarship (javelin), and majoring in advertising, Garth was becoming more and more interested in music as a career.
By 1983 Garth was playing gigs around Stillwater and picking up some extra money as a bouncer in local clubs. After graduating from OSU in December of 1984, he opted to make the move to Nashville. Colleen Brooks was not thrilled about his decision. “Mom had seen the bad side of the business, when management wasn’t professional,” Garth recalled. “She pretty much saw the ditches of music. So she prepared me for all that, which was great. I didn’t come in here with a sun-shiny face thinking everything was going to be rosy.”
The first trip to Nashville was anything but rosy, and Garth returned to Oklahoma within 23 hours. He continued playing the Oklahoma club circuit, married his college girlfriend, Sandy Mahl, in 1986, and returned to Music City the following year with renewed determination. Right away he began meeting and working with songwriters around town. One of them introduced him to ASCAP’s Bob Doyle, a respected song man known as a friend to writers. Bob was so impressed with the Oklahoman that he quit his job and took on management duties. And when talent agent Joe Harris heard Garth sing, he broke company policy and started booking the still-unsigned artist together with the band he’d put together, appropriately named Stillwater. Garth took the business seriously, playing any gig Joe Harris could book, and giving his all whether it was a crowd of 30 or 300.
It was by chance that Capitol Records’ A&R man Lynn Shults heard Garth sing “If Tomorrow Never Comes” at a writer showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Café. Although Capitol had once turned down Garth, Shults offered him a record deal on the spot. The label set up a meeting with producer Allen Reynolds (Don Williams, Crystal Gayle), and the two began the process of making an album.
Released on April 12, 1989, Garth Brooks contained four hit singles including "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "If Tomorrow Never Comes," "Not Counting You" and Garth's signature song, "The Dance." This debut recording went on to become the biggest-selling country album of the 1980s.
Garth’s live show got an early buzz on the tour circuit. On August 10, 1989, Garth and Stillwater played a show at Tulsa City Limits. John Wooley, music critic at the Tulsa World, wrote: “After seeing what he can do in concert, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Brooks, showman and talent that he is, is going to be country music’s next big thing.” Garth took home the first of many industry awards when he was presented with the 1990 Country Music Association (CMA) Horizon Award and the Video of the Year Award for "The Dance." "The Dance" also won Song and Video of the Year at the 1991 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards. "If Tomorrow Never Comes," which he wrote, won Favorite Country Single at the 1991 American Music Awards, International Single of the Year from the London-based Country Music People, and Song of the Year from the Nashville Songwriters Association International. It was an auspicious beginning for an artist who said he was "scared to death" when he recorded his debut.
The success of “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance” thrust Garth into new drawing power out on the concert trail. But although his asking price spiraled almost overnight, and he was clearly at headliner status, Garth fulfilled each and every date as agreed upon.
Garth's second release, 1990's groundbreaking No Fences, won Album of the Year from the CMA and ACM and became the biggest-selling country album at the time, and has been recently certified for sales in excess of 16 million. The album contained four No. 1 hits: "Friends in Low Places," "Unanswered Prayers," "Two of a Kind (Workin' On A Full House)," and "The Thunder Rolls." "Friends in Low Places" quickly became an anthem, winning Single of the Year from both the CMA and ACM. "The Thunder Rolls," which Garth wrote, won Video of the Year at the CMA Awards, and Favorite Country Single at the '92 American Music Awards, where No Fences was also named Favorite Country Album. The CMA and ACM named Garth Entertainer of the Year in '91, and Billboard named him #1 Pop and Country Artist, #1 Country Albums Artist and #1 Country Singles Artist.
In 1999 The Detroit Free Press listed No Fences as one of the “…definitive recorded moments of the decade.”
The overwhelming success of No Fences set the stage for 1991's Ropin' The Wind to become the first album in history to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and Country Albums chart. "Ropin' The Wind was like sitting in the draft position in a car race," Garth explained. "You're right behind the lead vehicle -- which was No Fences -- and there's a calm space created for you. In a race the two cars actually help each other, and I think that's what happened with Ropin' The Wind and No Fences."
Ropin' The Wind, which earned Garth a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1992 as well as CMA Album of the Year honors, had five hit singles: "Rodeo," "Shameless," "What She's Doing Now," "Papa Loved Mama" and "The River." By the end of 1991 Garth's overall record sales accounted for one fourth of country music's year-end sales. ASCAP awarded Garth its first Voice of Music Award and amid dozens of awards that followed, he again took home Entertainer of the Year honors from both the CMA and ACM in 1992. After Garth swept the 1992 Billboard awards, Entertainment Weekly's 1992 Reader's Poll named him FavoriteMale Singer, ahead of runners-up Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose.
Garth called 1992's studio album, The Chase, his most personal album to date, and it remains one of his favorites. "I opened myself completely on that album. It's the closest anybody has ever got to getting inside my head." Hit singles included "We Shall Be Free," "Somewhere Other Than the Night," "Learning to Live Again" and "That Summer."
The Chase became the second album in history to debut at No. 1 in Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and Country Albums chart. Garth and Stephanie Davis wrote "We Shall Be Free" as a result of Garth's being in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots. The song, a testimony to brotherhood and tolerance, inspired a video featuring cameo appearances by celebrities including: Michael Bolton, John Elway, Boomer Esiason, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Marlee Matlin, Reba McEntire, Warren Moon, Eddie Murphy, Martina Navratilova, General Colin Powell, and Elizabeth Taylor. In addition to the celebrity appearances, the video consisted of news footage depicting social, political and environmental problems, counteracted by scenes expressing hope in humanity's ability to cope with them. Garth debuted the video and performed the National Anthem live in Los Angeles at the 1993 Super Bowl to a television audience of over one billion people in over 87 countries.
Garth became the 1992 NSAI Songwriter/Artis of the Year, won two more People's Choice Awards, as well as favorite performer awards from Playboy, Performance and Pollstar, to name but a few.
In 1992 Garth also released his first Christmas album, Beyond the Season. "I'd make this album [Beyond the Season] every day of my life if I could, because you're singing about what counts," Garth said at the time. Sales from the Christmas album raised over two million dollars for Feed the Children.
High-energy In Pieces became the third album to enter Billboard's Top 200 and Country Albums charts at No. 1 when it was released in 1993. The album produced five hits: "Ain't Going Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)," "American Honky Tonk Bar Association," "Standing Outside the Fire," "One Night A Day" and "Callin' Baton Rouge." The debut single, "Ain't Going Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)," which Garth co-wrote, made Radio & Records history by entering the country singles charts at No. 25, with 222 stations adding the song out-of-the-box. For his cut of "Callin' Baton Rouge," Garth reunited New Grass Revival, the band that first recorded the song. Although "The Red Strokes" was a top-14 pop hit in the U.K., it was never released as a single in the United States, where the album cut climbed to the Top 40 on country music charts.
The following year saw Garth's international stature rise to stunning heights, and fans around the world anxiously awaited Garth's 1994 World Tour. Excitement started early in Ireland, where an estimated 130,000 Irish fans streamed into the downtown area in search of show tickets after it was announced that Garth would be playing The Point in that city in the spring of 1994. In less than two and one-half hours 34,000 tickets for the four shows were sold to those who had the proverbial luck of the Irish. Police finally had to disperse the crowd so the city's merchants could get back to business. The tour took Garth to 13 countries and played to over a quarter million fans outside of the U.S. In Barcelona the crowds paid him their highest compliment, screaming, "Torero! Torero!" Matador! Matador! In 1995 Garth received the Academy of Country Music's Jim Reeves Memorial Award, the first to have been presented in thirteen years. The award is only given when the Academy recognizes an artist who has uniquely enhanced the image of country music internationally.
The Garth Brooks Collection and The Hits were both released in 1994. The Garth Brooks Collection was compiled for McDonald's first music promotion, which benefited Ronald McDonald Children Charities (RMCC). The Hits was an 18-cut album of Garth Brooks' best-loved songs, available for a limited time only. The album was the biggest selling greatest hits package in country music history and the best-selling greatest hits package in any genre for the 1990s.
By 1995 Garth had made four NBC television specials, all of which were overwhelming ratings successes. The first special, This Is Garth Brooks, was filmed at Dallas' Reunion Arena in September 1991. When it aired in January 1992 it gave NBC its highest-rated Friday night in more than two years (17.3 rating/28 share), and was the No. 9 show in the Nielsen ratings for the week. The second airing of This Is Garth Brooks remained powerful, receiving a 6.9 rating and a 12 share. This Is Garth Brooks, Too! was filmed over the course of three sold-out shows at Texas Stadium in Irving in 1993, and when it aired in May 1994 that show gave NBC its first time period win among adults (18-49) since August 1992. When The Hits aired in January of 1995, it gave NBC its best adult rating in that time slot since January 19, 1994, with an 11.8 rating and an 18 share. The behind-the-scenes documentary, Tryin' To Rope The World, featured never-before-seen footage of Garth's first European/Australian tour in 1994, and received a 9.4 rating and a 15 share in the 18-49 demographics.
Garth's next studio album, Fresh Horses, was released on November 21, 1995. Refreshing and diverse, the project reflected the success of his road show, which covered the ground from the western side of country, to insightful relationship reflections, to full-tilt boogie country rock and roll. Singles included: "She's Every Woman," "The Beaches of Cheyenne," "It's Midnight Cinderella," "That Ol' Wind" and his version of the Aerosmith song "The Fever." The album also included "The Change," for which Garth made a powerfully moving video honoring the heroes and victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Eight of the ten songs on Fresh Horses were co-written by Garth.
back to top In March of 1996 Garth launched a record-breaking, three-year concert tour, playing 350 shows in 100 cities, selling over 5.3 million tickets. He sold out practically every show on the tour, playing multiple shows in each city and consistently breaking venue attendance records set by the likes of Elvis Presley, The Grateful Dead, Elton John, and Neil Diamond. Amusement Business called it the top country music tour of all time, and likely the biggest arena tour ever.
In December of 1996, VH1 premiered Garth Brooks: Storytellers, as part of its critically acclaimed singer/songwriter series. This intimate look into Garth and his music doubled the ratings of shows featuring rock stars including Sting, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello and Melissa Etheridge.
In May 1997, Garth fulfilled a promise he’d made three years earlier to the people of Ireland. When Garth played Dublin in 1994, he formed such a connection with the country that he promised to return, and to bring cameras. And when he returned, a record-breaking 120,000 tickets were sold for Dublin’s Croke Park, May 16 – 18, 1997. (A previous sales record was held by U2, 1992.) Polls showed that one in every twenty people in Ireland wanted to attend the concerts. The resulting two-hour NBC special, Garth Brooks: Ireland and Back, first aired on March 5, 1998 and won the night in ratings with an audience of over 15.7 million.
More history was made on August 7, 1997, when Garth played a concert in Central Park and drew its largest-ever concert crowd. Garth -- Live From Central Park was the most watched and highest rated original program on HBO in 1997, beating all broadcast competition in the time period as well as three of the four networks combined. Based on HBO average ratings, Garth -- Live From Central Park was the most watched special on cable television in 1997. This phenomenal success, as well as his continuing tour, earned Garth 1997 CMA Entertainer of the Year honors and a Special Achievement Award from the ACM in 1998.
Garth appropriately titled his 1997 seventh studio album Sevens, another release that debuted at the top of Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and Country Albums chart. But the album made history before it was even released. The debut single, "Longneck Bottle," became the only single to be added by every Radio & Records reporting station on the day of its release. "Longneck Bottle" debuted in the R&R chart at No. 10, the highest single debut in its history. Other hits included "In Another's Eyes," the duet with Trisha Yearwood which earned them a Grammy in 1998 for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, "She's Gonna Make It," "Two Pina Coladas," "You Move Me" and "Do What You Gotta Do."
In May 1998 Garth released a boxed set, The Limited Series, so named because only two million units were produced. The Limited Series contained his first six multi-platinum releases as well as a bonus track on each CD. The package became the first boxed set to debut at #1 on two charts. It topped the country charts and became the first boxed set to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart since Soundscan's inception in 1991. Buoyed by the success of Sevens, the boxed set and his tour, Garth was again named CMA Entertainer of the Year in September 1998.
Coinciding with the end of his record-breaking tour, Double Live, released in November 1998, featured 25 cuts and over 100 minutes of music. It became the best-selling live album in music history. The first single from Double Live had special meaning for Garth. "I've been looking for the right song to sing for my mother ever since I started making music," Garth said. "Somehow I could never write it myself. Then one day Benita Hill played me a song she'd written with Pam Wolfe, titled 'It's Your Song.' Benita's mother had been ill -- as had my mother. I sat down and listened to it and tears started falling. When I recorded it I almost broke down. I told Benita that the sentiment expressed in that song was what I'd wanted to say to my mother all this time and just never found the words." (Colleen Brooks, former Capitol Records recording artist and Garth's first musical mentor, died on August 6, 1999.)
A second Christmas album was released in 1999, Garth Brooks: The Magic of Christmas. The album contained new music from the TNT original film Call Me Claus, starring Whoopi Goldberg. Garth was the executive producer for the film, with Goldberg and Lisa Sanderson, Garth’s partner in Red Strokes Entertainment. Call Me Claus was the most watched cable television movie of the season and one of the two highest-rated and most-watched cable movies of the year.
On October 26, 2000, Capitol Records threw a black-tie party at the Nashville Arena for Garth – One Decade, One Artist, One Hundred Million (albums sold) – a feat unmatched by any other solo artist in history. Garth received a congratulatory letter from President Bill Clinton, and video messages from friends including Sandra Bullock, Whitney Houston and Jay Leno. Garth acknowledged that he owed Capitol one more studio album, and that he also hoped to record a duet album with longtime friend and duet partner Trisha Yearwood. However, he said, he was stopping touring, moving to Oklahoma and going into semi-retirement.
“Today I am starting a new life.” Garth said. “My children and I are together every day,” he said. “I have asked my wife to be father and mother long enough. It’s time for me to accept my responsibilities and accept the true rewards that come with being a father.” Specifically, he talked about attending his daughter Taylor’s soccer game, saying, “I realized that in that one game I had more fun than in all ten years of touring.”
In a candid interview with Billboard’s Melinda Newman, Garth announced that he and wife Sandy had decided to divorce and were concentrating on remaining “…parents even if we’re not husband and wife.”
For those who followed Garth’s life and career, the move to Oklahoma should have been unsurprising. He had often expressed the sentiments he disclosed to Oklahoma Today as early as 1993, when he said he would love to raise his children in his home state. “Just to be raised in Oklahoma puts you on the board in the game of life,” he said. “If you were raised in Oklahoma, you were raised with all you need. There’s a rightness and a good-heartedness there that’s not anywhere else.”
His final studio album for Capitol, Scarecrow was released on November 13, 2001, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and Country Albums charts with first week sales of 465,523. This marked the 7th time he debuted at #1 on the Top 200 chart (more times than any other artist) and the 9th time to debut atop the Country Albums chart. It was the highest selling debut week for a country album since the release of Garth Brooks Double Live in 1998. It was also among the10 best selling country albums of 2001.
"I love the idea of the 'Scarecrow' -- a guy who is brainless, but who has a heart," Garth said of the title for his 2001 studio album. "This is the happiest record I've ever made." Like its predecessors, Scarecrow was big news. By its fourth week the album accounted for 21% of all country sales. Stellar duets on Scarecrow include "Beer Run" with George Jones and "Squeeze Me In" with Trisha Yearwood. Additional hits were “Wrapped Up in You,” "Why Ain't I Running" and "Thicker Than Blood."
Time said: "Scarecrow is a reminder that Brooks is a man with a significant gift. Like Elvis and Sinatra, Brooks isn't just a singer, but an interpreter." People addressed the retirement: "This is his best work to date. It pulses with human feeling. If this is to be the last disc from a superstar, what a way to go!"
Even though a banner headline in the Nashville Tennessean reading SAY IT AIN’T SO, GARTH was echoed across the country, Garth did return to his farm in Oklahoma. The day-to-day reality was a world away from Entertainment Weekly’s calling him one of the greatest entertainers of the second half of the 20th century in 1999, or Radio & Records naming Garth Brooks and Patsy Cline the Greatest Artists of the Century in its special issue: A Century of Country. It was a colossal leap from the 29th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles (2002) where he was presented with the Award of Merit, following previous winners Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Irving Berlin and Willie Nelson. But Garth happily replaced a life being chauffeured to the red carpet with a life in his pick-up truck chauffeuring his girls to their activities.
Over the course of the next few years Garth and his longtime duet partner and close friend Trisha Yearwood fell in love. In May of 2005, at the Legends in Bronze event at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, California, Garth got down on one knee and proposed to his best friend. On December 10, 2005, Garth and Trisha wed in a private ceremony in Oklahoma. Far from the celebrity spotlight, the two superstars repeated vows that included Garth’s daughters, Taylor, August and Allie.
The year 2005 had another high point for Garth when he was able to offer fans a collection of previously unreleased songs on a new CD, The Lost Sessions. In a partnership with WalMart, Garth delivered a boxed set which included a DVD, All Access, featuring live performance selections, interview segments and a photo gallery of over 150 pictures, plus Sevens, Scarecrow, Double Live and The Lost Sessions. “Good Ride Cowboy,” a Lost Sessions tribute to Garth’s friend, the late Chris LeDoux, was a runaway #1 hit, and the boxed set made WalMart sales history. A second DVD featuring music and photos from Garth’s television specials and a collection of his videos was released in November, 2006.
In 2007, after 9 years in retirement, Garth Brooks tied his own personal record for selling the highest number of tickets in any city in North America. The demand was so great that, as promised, Garth added first one more show, then another and another until obligations prevented him from adding more. This was accomplished in 1 hour and 58 minutes, with nine shows in total sold. Brooks final concert played from the brand new Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri was simulcast live to more than 300 movie theatres nationwide in association with National CineMedia’s FATHOM Events.
Garth started this year off with a bang when he performed five shows in two days – a feat believed to have never before been attempted by any artist. The tickets sold out in 59 minutes! CBS broadcasted Garth Brooks live in Los Angeles from STAPLES Center to benefit F.I.R.E. (Fire Intervention Relief Effort), a program created to help the recent fire victims and support the future of fire fighting in the state of California. All proceeds from the five concerts were donated to the Relief Effort.
In the midst of one of the most successful careers in music history, Garth retired from touring in 1998. His days are now spent raising his three daughters and in the company of his soul mate, wife, and fellow entertainer, Trisha Yearwood. Garth is a man of great humanity. His retirement is often placed on hold to perform for charities that are close to his heart.
- www.cmt.com biography