Garth Brooks was once the undisputed King of Country Music before his semi-retirement. He broke nearly every record involving country music, albums sales, ticket sales, awards. He has 70 hit singles, though only a few ever reached popular consciousness, most notably, “Friends in Low Places” and “Ain’t Going Down (Until the Sun Comes Up).” He has sold over 125 million albums, won 2 Grammys, 16 American Music Awards, 29 Country Music awards, and is the only artist to have seven albums debut at Number One on the Billboard charts. His concerts all sell out in record time.
So, the real question is why does every article or review of Garth Brooks begin with a recitation of these stunning numbers? Why does every Garth Brooks fan feel the need to justify their love of all things Garth? The cowboy hat, the pudgy Western shirts, the bad lyrical puns in his songs. After all, vanilla is the most popular ice cream for a reason and no one apologizes when buying a vanilla cone. Garth’s stellar career and phenomenal success is belied by his everyday-man persona and everyday-man music. Without his trademark cowboy hat and shirts, he could walk past you on the street and you would never know. There are few superstars of his status that could do this. I think for many of his fans, Garth Brooks is a guilty-pleasure. They know that he embodies nearly every country music stereotype, for better or worse, but he does so with such effortlessness and such lack of guile that his popularity continues to be broad and his connection to his fans is deep and something that most artists can only envy.
Los Angeles, CA
January 25, 2008
Guest Contributor: Robert Martins
As a holiday present, I got tickets to take my wife to see Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks is the Brett Favre of the country music scene, every time he steps on stage, he continues to set records. He is also widely admired for his humility and earnestness despite great success. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Garth Brooks is the top-selling solo artist of the 20th century. And like the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre, tickets to see Garth Brooks are very difficult to get.
Garth performs very few live concerts these days, instead devoting himself to his family and young daughters. But when fires hit Southern California in the fall of 2007, he agreed to perform at a one-time fundraiser in Los Angeles due to his long association with firefighters. Tickets went on sale December 1st, and after only 58 minutes, 5 concerts had been sold out. The 5 shows took place over only a two day period because of scheduling conflicts at the Staples center. On Saturday, Brooks was scheduled to perform 3 concerts in one day, another record for the Staples Center. The three concerts were scheduled at four hour intervals and were underwritten by American Express who also donated money to help raise over $10 million dollars.
Brooks was no less than amazing. During the fourth concert, which I attended on Saturday afternoon, he began the concert by playing a string of his hits. After almost two hours, he returned for two encores that included covers of songs by James Taylor and Jim Croce who Brooks said are among his heroes. During the second encore, he said that he just met a Staples Center employee backstage who asked what it was like to go on stage before an audience of over 17,000 people. Garth said his father had told him that if you want to experience something you need to jump in with both feet. At that point he invited Alva, the employee, to come on the stage. Alva, a heavy set Hispanic woman, was visibly shaken but sat on stage while Garth sang one more song. When he was done, he invited Alva back to the middle of the stage and asked everyone in the audience to take a picture of the two of them. He then took off his trademark Black Cowboy Hat and gave it to Alva. As she left the stage, Brooks turned to the audience and said that he would rather be standing on stage without his pants than standing there without his Cowboy Hat! He gave a final wave and left. It’s no wonder his fans are so dedicated. It was a great show.