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A talented and charismatic artist who helped to break barriers between pop and country music, Garth Brooks became one of the biggest recording artists of all time. Brooks made his mark in the music industry with his self-titled debut album (1989) that spawned the hit singles "The Dance" and "If Tomorrow Never Comes." His folk-rock inspired tunes - blending influences from Merle Haggard to James Taylor - and remarkably energetic live performances set Brooks apart from other country artists at the time. His phenomenally successful sophomore release No Fences (1990) included Brooks' trademark anthem "Friends in Low Places," while his third album Ropin' the Wind (1991) put him in the history books as the first country artist to land at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and Country Album charts. Brooks hit a minor creative bump with the critically panned concept album Garth Brooks in the life of Chris Gaines (1999) where the singer took on a rock alter ego. Amidst his meteoric rise to fame, countless awards, and a secret affair (and eventual marriage) with country singer Trisha Yearwood, Brooks proclaimed family as his top priority and announced his retirement at the peak of his career. He made his...
A talented and charismatic artist who helped to break barriers between pop and country music, Garth Brooks became one of the biggest recording artists of all time. Brooks made his mark in the music industry with his self-titled debut album (1989) that spawned the hit singles "The Dance" and "If Tomorrow Never Comes." His folk-rock inspired tunes - blending influences from Merle Haggard to James Taylor - and remarkably energetic live performances set Brooks apart from other country artists at the time. His phenomenally successful sophomore release No Fences (1990) included Brooks' trademark anthem "Friends in Low Places," while his third album Ropin' the Wind (1991) put him in the history books as the first country artist to land at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and Country Album charts. Brooks hit a minor creative bump with the critically panned concept album Garth Brooks in the life of Chris Gaines (1999) where the singer took on a rock alter ego. Amidst his meteoric rise to fame, countless awards, and a secret affair (and eventual marriage) with country singer Trisha Yearwood, Brooks proclaimed family as his top priority and announced his retirement at the peak of his career. He made his triumphant return to music in 2009 with a series of concerts at the Encore resort in Las Vegas, where Brooks performed a cavalcade of hits that confirmed him as a definitive and iconic figure in country music.
Troyal Garth Brooks was born on Feb. 7, 1962 in Tulsa, OK, the youngest of six children. Four years later, his family moved to Yukon, where his father, a former Marine, worked as a draftsman in the oil industry. His mother was singer Colleen Carroll, who recorded for Capitol Records in the mid-1950s. Brooks learned to play guitar and sing at an early age, influenced by a variety of artists, from country legends Merle Haggard and George Jones, to rock acts like Janis Joplin and Steppenwolf. The future star was also drawn to the music of singer-songwriters such as James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg. Brooks' primary interest as a young man, however, was playing sports. He played baseball, football and track in high school before attending Oklahoma State University on a track scholarship. While majoring in advertising in OSU, Brooks discovered his love for music and began performing in local clubs. After graduating college in 1984, he took a trip to Nashville, TN to pursue a music career, but quickly learned he was not ready for a big move. Brooks headed back to Oklahoma, married his college girlfriend in 1986, and continued playing in the local music circuit. The following year, Brooks gave Nashville another try which proved to be more successful after a Capitol Records' talent scout heard him sing at a writer showcase and offered him a record deal that same day.
Brooks' self-titled debut album was released in 1989 and spawned the Top 10 country singles "If Tomorrow Never Comes," "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "Not Counting You," and "The Dance," an inspirational and moving track that appealed to listeners of all ages. Coupled with his energetic live performances, Brooks became country music's newest sensation by the decade's end. His debut also landed at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, signaling Brooks' crossover into pop territory. He outdid himself with the sophomore release No Fences, which topped the country charts in large part thanks to the blue-collar anthem "Friends in Low Places" and the stirring ballad "The Thunder Rolls." Country Music Television and The Nashville Network banned "The Thunder Rolls" music video, which contained graphic scenes of domestic violence. VH-1 chose to air the controversial clip, which the music channel felt raised awareness of domestic violence, further exposing Brooks' music and artistry to the mainstream. No Fences spent 23 weeks at the top of the country music charts, won a slew of awards, and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, which made it one of the biggest-selling country albums of all time.
Brooks made music history in 1991 with the release of Ropin' the Wind, the first album to top the Billboard Hot 200 as well as the Country Album charts. The worldwide success of No Fences undoubtedly set the stage for Ropin' the Wind but it was also the singer's charismatic and electrifying performances that drew millions in. He won his first Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1992, the same year he released his most personal album The Chase, which showcased the artists' love for singer-songwriters like James Taylor. Like its history-making predecessor, The Chase also topped the Billboard and Country Album charts, and included the song "We Shall Be Free" that was inspired by the 1992 L.A. riots. The accompanying music video, which Brooks debuted at the 1993 Super Bowl, included cameos from various celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Whoopi Goldberg, and Eddie Murphy. Following another No. 1 album, In Pieces (1993), and a successful televised concert special "Garth Live from Central Park" (HBO, 1997), Brooks turned his attention to a full pop-music crossover in 1999 by creating an alter ego. The concept revolved around Brooks taking on the persona of a mop-haired, goateed Australian alternative-rock artist named Chris Gaines for the album Garth Brooks in the Life of Chris Gaines. The album posed as a collection of Gaines' "greatest hits" that included new wave, rock and R&B styles, and reached No. 2 on the pop charts. However, the whole experiment turned off his longtime country music fans, while music critics scoffed at the singer's attempt to stay current.
In 2000, Brooks announced he was taking a semi-retirement from music, which coincided with the news that he and his wife Sandy Mahl were filing for a divorce. He released his said-to-be final album Scarecrow (2001), which again topped the pop and country charts, but then vowed not to record or perform again until his youngest daughter turned 18. He also split from his longtime label Capitol Records. Following his divorce, Brooks went public with his secret affair with frequent collaborator and fellow country star Trisha Yearwood. The couple tied the knot on Dec. 10, 2005 in Oklahoma. That same year, Brooks signed a deal with Wal-Mart, leasing them the rights to his back catalog and issuing previously unreleased recordings. He briefly reemerged from his retirement to duet with Yearwood on the Hurricane Katrina benefit "Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast" (ABC, 2005). Brooks further cemented his imminent comeback by performing nine sold-out shows in 2007, held at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. Two years later, the singer announced he was ending his retirement to perform weekend shows at the Encore resort in Las Vegas, NV. In order to keep his family life intact, Brooks was reportedly offered a private jet by the resort to transport him weekly between Sin City and his home in Oklahoma. The shows included Brooks' classic hits as well as covers of some of his favorite artists, from Billy Joel to Simon and Garfunkel.
By Marc Cuenco
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Garth Brooks on his appeal to a varied and extensive audience: "I am just a mirror of them. Maybe they see themselves in me and say, 'Hey, you don't have to be this ungodly person to make your mark on life. You just got to be yourself.'" --quoted in the Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1992.
Brooks on writing a song ("The Thunder Rolls") about the Los Angeles riots, displaying a more inclusive mindset than one stereotypically attributes to country musicians from middle America: "Tolerance is an important issue to me. Just like we might today ask our grandparents how anyone could have ever judged a man by his skin, our grandkids will say, 'How could anyone ever think someone's sexual preference affected how their mind works?" --to the Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1992.
"I've got a problem with three guys--George Strait, George Jones and [James] Taylor. I was asked to host the Academy of Country Music Awards this year with Strait and Jones, but I had to say no. I can't be around those guys. It kills me. I don't know what it is. I guess I never left the fan thing behind. When I get around those guys, I get sloppy. My eyes water up and I say stupid things. I sure love them, but I just like to watch from a distance." --Brooks on still being a fan although he is a superstar, quoted in the Boston Globe, December 13, 1996.
Brooks on connecting with an audience in his live performances: "When I went to concerts, my whole thing was, for one second, that the artist--that Freddie Mercury of Queen--would look me in the eye. What's cool is when you stand up here now, and you're on this side of it, all you want to do is find one second with each person to tell them what they've done for you." --to the Minnesota Star Tribune, October 6, 1998.
Garth Brooks on the announcement of his retirement: "[M]aking music always does excite me, but I don't know if as a songwriter I have it in me. As an artist, has the [country] format passed me by? Has my age taken me to a place where I can't compete? All these things are questions that I have wrestled with this whole year ... I don't want this to be called my last album or the farewell album--that's not my bag. If we can come up with songs that feel comparable to the other seven studio albums, then we might [put out another album]." --in an October 7, 2000 interview with Billboard Magazine.
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