Ten reasons we still love Garth Brooks
It's been twelve years since his official "retirement," and we're betting that in that time you've forgotten how to hate Garth Brooks. So what's our old friend been up to since then? And, importantly, why should we care?
Since Garth Brooks more or less retired from the music biz a dozen years ago, the man who once exemplified everything people who hated country music hated about country music has nonetheless kept himself pretty busy. He divorced his wife amid allegations he was having an affair with friend and collaborator Trisha Yearwood. He and Trisha got married, and the two have since gotten fat off Southern cooking and love, releasing cookbooks and showing up on television specials sharing their favorite holiday recipes. And he, like most "retired" artists, is kind of bad at retirement -- in other words, he's performed a few shows here and there, released a giant box set at Wal-Mart, and until recently, performed a regular weekend gig at the Wynn Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Last weekend marked his final show at the Wynn after a three-year, 180-show run. As payment? Hotel developer Steve Wynn is letting him keep the private jet he's been using to shuttle back and forth between Vegas and his home in Oklahoma. Wynn has also gone on the record saying Garth is planning a world tour in the fall of 2014, his first in sixteen years.
Fans will remember that when he "retired," Garth said he'd likely come back when all his kids had graduated; his youngest daughter will be out of the house in 2014, so perhaps now is the time to again start keeping an eye on Garth, should you want a hot seat when he eventually swings through town, front and center for his over-the-top stage antics, and with good sightlines to take in his tight Wranglers and color blocked, buttoned-up shirts (just kidding - his stage attire has graduated to hoodies and baseball caps). Oh, but you didn't like him in '94, and you sure as hell aren't gonna be listening to him twenty (twenty!) years later? Oh, thee of so little faith in this lovable cheeseball -- we present to you our top ten reasons you should give a shit about Garth Brooks.
10.The Chris Gaines fiasco
It's pretty much a no-brainer that we would lead with Chris Gaines, the fictional alter-ego that inspired millions of fans to utter the phrase, "WTF?" before WTF? was even a phrase people uttered. In 1999, Brooks and his production company partnered with Paramount Pictures to develop a movie called The Lamb , with Garth Brooks starring in the role of Chris Gaines, a dark and brooding rock star ("emo" a word just coming into its own at the time). In an ill-advised effort to generate buzz for a filmic endeavor that was itself ill-advised, Brooks adopted the identify of Gaines for a "pre-soundtrack" album, Garth Brooks in... The Life of Chris Gaines , appearing as the character in a pseudo-documentary for VH1's Behind the Music , and also performing as Gaines on Saturday Night Live .
The whole thing was an appallingly spectacular failure -- no doy -- and though the album made it to Number Two on the pop album chart, come on, this was Garth Brooks we were talking about! Number Two ain't gonna cut it! The album was deemed a failure, the movie scrapped, but guess what -- Garth Brooks went down in our playbook as the baddest ass dude ever. I mean, who the fuck does something like this? A total badass who just don't give a fuck, that's who. And that's Garth Brooks. Er, Chris Gaines. I mean, Garth Brooks. Wait, who were we talking about? Oh yeah, Garth Brooks, Baddest Ass Dude.
9. Friends in (Not So) Low Places
Brooks is the best-selling albums artist in the SoundScan era, a title he's held since its inception in 1991, placing him well over 5 million albums ahead of the Beatles. According to RIAA, he is the third best-selling albums artist of all time, behind Elvis and the Beatles. He's sold over 190 million albums worldwide, six of his albums have achieved diamond status with his Double Live album going platinum twenty-one times over. He's won two Grammys, 17 AMAs, and was this year inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. None of this is because he wears cool shirts, or sings into a wireless headpiece microphone. Nope. It's because his songs are unarguably listenable and actually good. Like this little ditty we all know. We've been to a wedding or ten where every attendee from the hipsteriest hipster to the snootiest, uptightest aunt knew every word to this song, and sang along. It's because it's really good . Embrace it.
8. Rural roots
While Garth may make frequent forays into rock and pop, his country roots come from just the right place. Born February 7, 1962 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he was the youngest child of Troyal Raymond Brooks, a draftsman for an oil company, and Colleen Carroll, a 1950s-era country singer who cut records for Capitol and appeared on the legendary Ozark Jubilee , the second marriage for both parents. It was in rural Oklahoma and eventually in the nightclubs of Stillwater that Garth followed his mother's footsteps, and cut his teeth in country.
7. Traditional country style
We can forgive him for all that Chris Gaines stuff, because from hits like "Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)" to deep cuts like "Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House," when Garth does traditional country, he does it well.
6. The guy's an organ donor
Or at least, he'd tried to be. On his first hit "Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)," Brooks offers a shout-out to his friend, rodeo superstar and country singer Chris LeDoux, and the two later paired up on the 1992 hit, "Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy." In 2000 when LeDoux was diagnosed with a liver disease that required a transplant, Brooks attempted to donate part of his own liver. However, it was found to be incompatible, and after receiving another donated liver, LeDoux died in 2005 due to complications from liver cancer. That year, Brooks released "Good Ride Cowboy" as a tribute to LeDoux.
5. We Shall (All) Be Free
After witnessing the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, Brooks co-wrote a motivational ditty called "We Shall Be Free," a tune that aspires to a world where "we're free to love anyone we choose," "the world's big enough for all different views," and "we can all worship from our own kind of pew." The song wasn't a huge hit but it earned Garth a GLAAD Media Award in 1993. Little known fact about Garth? His older sister Betsy, who backed him in his band during his early days as an artist, is a lesbian.
4. Another feel-good fact
Now didn't the GLAAD award make you feel good about Garth Brooks? Watch this video and feel even better. Aww-gawwww...
3. The Kiss Connection
Kiss fans (I'm always stunned they exist in such great numbers, but in any case) this factoid's for you: Garth considers Kiss to be one of his biggest influences. Yes, it's true. And in 1994, he paid tribute to the band on the hard rock compilation Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved , the only country singer to participate in the project. In effort to remain true to its original form, for his cover of the Peter Criss song "Hard Luck Woman" Brooks requested the band back him on the track, the only song on which they did so. Garth and Kiss then appeared on The Tonight Show to perform the song.
2. Garth's serious acting chops
He has them! Kind of! His acting career long preceded this whole Chris Gaines nonsense when he gave Reba a run for her money as reigning queen of "starring in your own music video," appearing as the smarmy, cheating husband in the video for "The Thunder Rolls."
1. Mr. Blue
It's near impossible to find videos of Garth Brooks singing any song online because he's got his product basically under lock and key. But on his 1990 album No Fences , Garth randomly threw a Western swingin' cover of this Fleetwoods hit on his B-side. And I used to listen to it on cassette tape while I'd rollerblade around my basement for hours and hours as a kid and it was awesome. Get yourself a tape, a Walkman and a pair of neon rollerblades, and dig it.
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