Garth Brooks is an American country music singer-songwriter who has achieved unprecedented success in both the country and pop markets. He was born on February 7, 1962 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and began his musical career in 1985. He released his self-titled debut album in 1989, which was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He followed it with a string of multi-platinum albums, such as No Fences (1990), Ropin’ the Wind (1991), The Chase (1992), In Pieces (1993), and The Hits (1994).
Brooks has been praised for his musical versatility, his influence on other artists, and his philanthropic efforts. He has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Musicians Hall of Fame.
Early life and influences
Garth Brooks was born on February 7, 1962 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the youngest of six children. His mother, Colleen Carroll, was a country singer who had a brief recording career with Capitol Records in the 1950s. His father, Troyal Brooks, was a draftsman for an oil company. Brooks grew up in a musical family and learned to play guitar and banjo at an early age. He also sang in the church choir and participated in school musicals.
Brooks was exposed to a wide range of music through his elder siblings, who listened to artists such as George Jones, Merle Haggard, Tom Rush, Townes Van Zandt, Rita Coolidge, Janis Joplin, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Elton John, and Billy Joel. He was especially fond of rock music and singer-songwriters who wrote personal and emotional songs. However in 1981, after hearing “Unwound”, the debut single of George Strait, Brooks decided that he was more interested in playing country music.
Brooks initially showed little interest in pursuing a musical career, preferring to focus on athletics. He received a track-and-field scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he studied advertising. He met guitarist Ty England there, and they began performing at local nightclubs. Brooks graduated with a degree in advertising in 1984 and moved to Nashville the following year with hopes of becoming a country singer. However, he returned to Oklahoma after only a day, feeling discouraged by the music industry. He married his college girlfriend Sandy Mahl in 1986 and worked as a salesman and a boot store manager. In 1987, he moved back to Nashville with his wife and was signed to Capitol Records in 1988.
Rise to Fame and Success
Garth Brooks released his self-titled debut album in 1989 to instant success. “Garth Brooks” was produced by Allen Reynolds and featured songs such as “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” and “The Dance”. The album was certified diamond by the RIAA, with over ten million copies sold. Brooks also won his first awards, including the CMA Horizon Award and the Music Video of the Year for “The Dance”. Most of the album was traditionalist country, influenced in part by George Strait.
Brooks’s second album, No Fences, came out in 1990 and became a blockbuster hit, selling more than 17 million copies in the U.S. alone. The album spawned four number one singles, including “Friends in Low Places”, “Unanswered Prayers”, “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House”, and “The Thunder Rolls”. Brooks also won several awards for this album, such as the CMA and ACM Single of the Year and Album of the Year. He also became the first artist to win the CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year awards in the same year, a feat he repeated in 1991 and 1992.
Brooks continued his success with his third album, Ropin’ the Wind, which was released in 1991 and became the first country album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album featured songs such as “Rodeo”, “What She’s Doing Now”, “Shameless”, and “The River”. Brooks also won his first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male for “Rodeo”. He also embarked on his first world tour, which broke attendance records and showcased his energetic and theatrical live performances.
Brooks released two more albums in 1992 and 1993, The Chase and In Pieces, which were both certified diamond by the RIAA. He also released his first Christmas album, Beyond the Season, in 1992. Some of his notable songs from this period include “We Shall Be Free”, “That Summer”, “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)”, and “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association”. Brooks also participated in several charity events, such as Farm Aid and The Concert for World Children’s Day. He also established his own foundation at this time, Teammates for Kids, which supports children’s health, education, and sports.
Retirement and Comeback
In October 2000, Brooks announced that he was retiring from recording and performing, citing his desire to focus on his family. He had three young daughters with his first wife, Sandy Mahl, whom he divorced in 2001. He promised his fans that he would return to music when his youngest daughter graduated from high school in 2014.
However, Brooks came out of retirement earlier than expected, partly due to a private jet deal with Steve Wynn, the owner of Wynn Las Vegas. Wynn offered Brooks a residency at his hotel, where he could perform select shows and fly back and forth on a private jet to be with his family in Oklahoma. Brooks accepted the offer and began his Garth at Wynn show in December 2009, which ran until January 2014.
Brooks also released new music during his retirement period, such as the box set Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences in 2013, which featured covers of songs that influenced him, and two new songs, “The Call” and “Mom”. He also married his longtime friend and collaborator, Trisha Yearwood, in 2005.
In July 2014, Brooks announced that he was officially coming back to music with a new album and a world tour. He signed with Sony Music Nashville and released his ninth studio album, Man Against Machine, in November 2014. He also launched the Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood in September 2014, which lasted until December 2017 and became one of the highest-grossing tours of all time.
Brooks continued to release new albums and singles, such as Gunslinger in 2016, which featured the hit “Ask Me How I Know”, his first solo No. 1 single since 2007, and Dive Bar in 2019, a duet with Blake Shelton. He also embarked on his first-ever stadium tour in 2019, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His most recent album, Fun, was released in November 2020 and featured collaborations with Blake Shelton and Charley Pride. It debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Top Country Albums charts.
Film and Television Appearances
Garth Brooks has also ventured into film and television, both as an actor and a producer. He made his acting debut in 1994, playing himself in an episode of the sitcom Mad About You. He also appeared as himself in an episode of Empty Nest in 1991 and as his alter ego Chris Gaines in a mockumentary called Garth Brooks… In the Life of Chris Gaines in 1999. He also starred in a TV movie called Unanswered Prayers in 2010, based on his song of the same name.
Brooks has also produced several TV movies and specials, such as Call Me Claus in 2001, Garth Live from Central Park in 1997, Garth Brooks: Yankee Stadium Live in 2016, and Garth: Live at Notre Dame in 2018. He also executive produced a documentary series called Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On in 2019, which chronicled his life and career. He also performed at various events and ceremonies, such as the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden in 2021, where he sang “Amazing Grace”.
Brooks has also been featured in several documentaries and music shows, such as Country Music by Ken Burns in 2019, Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President in 2020, and The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2020. He has also appeared on numerous talk shows and award shows, such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Saturday Night Live, The View, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and the Academy of Country Music Awards. He has also performed on Sesame Street and with the Muppets.
Garth Brooks and Chris Gaines
One of the most controversial and puzzling episodes in Garth Brooks’s career was his creation of an alter-ego named Chris Gaines, a fictional Australian rock star. Brooks conceived Gaines as a character for a movie called The Lamb, which he planned to star in and produce. The movie was supposed to tell the story of Gaines’s life and death, and Brooks wanted to release a soundtrack album before the film came out.
In 1999, Brooks released “Garth Brooks in…the Life of Chris Gaines”, an album that featured songs written and performed by Brooks as Gaines. The album was presented as a greatest hits collection of Gaines’s career, spanning different genres and eras. Brooks also appeared as Gaines in a mockumentary for VH1’s Behind the Music and on Saturday Night Live. He also changed his appearance, wearing a wig, a soul patch, and dark clothes.
The project was met with confusion and criticism from fans and critics alike, who did not understand Brooks’s motivation or artistic vision. The album sold poorly compared to Brooks’s previous albums, and the movie was never made due to financial and management problems. Brooks later admitted that he regretted the way he handled the project and that he wished he had released the album under his own name. He also said that he still liked the songs and that he might revisit them someday.
Environmental and humanitarian causes
Garth Brooks has also been involved in various environmental and humanitarian causes throughout his career. He has supported organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, United Way, Project Clean Water, and Teammates for Kids, which he founded in 1999 to help children’s health, education, and sports. He has also participated in several charity events and concerts, such as Farm Aid, Live Earth, The Concert for World Children’s Day, and Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast. He has also donated millions of dollars to various causes, such as wildfire relief, flood relief, hurricane relief, and COVID-19 relief.
Brooks has also been recognized for his environmental and humanitarian efforts by various awards and honors. He has received the Points of Light Award from former President George H.W. Bush in 1991, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama in 2016, and the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award in 2017. He has also been named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 1999 and one of the most charitable celebrities by DoSomething.org in 2010.
The Big 615 – Global Country Music Radio
In June 2023, Brooks launched his own global country music radio station, The Big 615, in partnership with TuneIn Radio. The station is part of Brooks’ SEVENS Radio Network, which plans to launch multiple stations on TuneIn this year, all curated and conceived by Brooks and his team.
“I believe that country music listeners want to hear the latest from George Strait followed by the latest from Luke Combs. The latest from Ashley McBryde followed by the latest from The Chicks,” Brooks said. “The Big 615 station is purely for the love of country music.”
More on the Big 615 in this article
Where To Hear Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks has had a complicated relationship with streaming platforms, as he has been reluctant to make his music available on services like iTunes, Spotify, or Apple Music. He has cited various reasons for his decision, such as wanting to preserve the integrity of his albums, respecting the rights of songwriters and publishers, and maintaining control over his catalog.
However, in 2016, Brooks signed an exclusive deal with Amazon Music, making his music available for streaming for the first time. He said he chose Amazon because they shared his vision of how people should enjoy his music and offered him flexibility and freedom.
In addition to streaming his existing albums, Brooks also released new music exclusively on Amazon Music, such as Gunslinger in 2016, autobiography The Anthology Part I: The First Five Years in 2017, and Fun in 2020. He also launched his own global country music radio station, The Big 615, in partnership with TuneIn Radio.
Garth Brooks – A Country Music Legend
Garth Brooks is a country music legend who has sold more than 170 million records worldwide, making him the top-selling solo artist of all time. He rose to fame in the late 1980s and early 1990s with his blend of pop and rock elements into the country genre, which earned him popularity across different audiences and genres. He has released 13 studio albums, several compilation albums, and three Christmas albums, featuring many hit singles and collaborations. He has also won numerous awards and accolades, including two Grammy Awards, 17 American Music Awards, 11 Academy of Country Music Awards, 18 Country Music Association Awards, two Billboard Music Awards, two Golden Globe nominations, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Musicians Hall of Fame.
Brooks retired from recording and performing in 2000 to focus on his family, but returned to music in 2005 with occasional performances and releases. He married his longtime friend and collaborator, Trisha Yearwood, in 2005. He launched a comeback world tour with Yearwood in 2014, which lasted until 2017 and became one of the highest-grossing tours of all time. He followed that with a stadium tour in 2019, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His most recent album, Fun, was released in November 2020 and featured collaborations with Blake Shelton and Charley Pride.
Brooks has also been involved in many philanthropic endeavors, such as co-founding the Teammates for Kids Foundation, which provides financial aid to children’s charities, and supporting various causes such as Habitat for Humanity, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and MusiCares. He has also launched his own global country music radio station, The Big 615, in partnership with TuneIn Radio, offering listeners a unique, fresh, and authentic take on country music.
Brooks has transcended genres, generations, and even boundaries with his music, creating a timeless legacy that will live on for many years to come. He is one of the most iconic artists in music history and a true cultural phenomenon..