- Category : Singer - Popular
- Type : PM
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
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Troyal Garth Brooks (born February 7, 1962) is an American country music artist. His eponymous first album was released in 1989 and peaked at number 2 in the US country album chart while climbing to number 13 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Brooks' integration of rock elements into his recordings and live performances has earned him immense popularity. This progressive approach allowed him to dominate the country single and album charts while quickly crossing over into the mainstream pop arena, exposing country music to a larger audience.
Brooks has enjoyed one of the most successful careers in popular music history, breaking records for both sales and concert attendance throughout the 1990s. He continues to sell well and according to Nielsen Soundscan, his albums sales through October 2011 are at 68,561,000, which makes him the best-selling albums artist in the United States in the SoundScan era (since 1991), a title held since 1991, well over 5 million ahead of his nearest rival, The Beatles. Furthermore, according to RIAA he is the second best-selling solo albums artist in the United States of all time behind Elvis Presley (overall is third to the Beatles and Elvis Presley) with 128 million units sold. Brooks has released six albums that achieved diamond status in the United States, those being: Garth Brooks (10× platinum), No Fences (17× platinum), Ropin' the Wind (14× platinum), The Hits (10× platinum), Sevens (10× platinum) and Double Live (21× platinum). Since 1989, Brooks has released 19 records in all, which include; 9 studio albums, 1 live album, 4 compilation albums, 3 Christmas albums and 2 box sets, along with 77 singles. He won several important awards in his career, including 2 Grammy Awards, 17 American Music Awards (including the "Artist of the '90s") and the RIAA Award as Best selling solo albums artist of the Century in the United States.
Troubled by conflicts between career and family, Brooks officially retired from recording and performing from 2001 until 2009. During this time he sold millions of albums through an exclusive distribution deal with Walmart and sporadically released new singles. In 2005, Brooks started a partial comeback, and has since given several performances and released two compilation albums.
On October 15, 2009, Garth Brooks announced the end of his retirement. In December 2009, he began a five-year concert deal with the Encore Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Brooks was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 21, 2012.
Early life and education
Brooks was born on 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 recorded on the Capitol Records label and appeared on Ozark Jubilee. This was the second marriage for each of his parents, giving Garth four older half-siblings (Jim, Jerry, Mike, and Betsy). The couple had two children together, Kelly and Garth. At their home in Yukon, Oklahoma, the family hosted weekly talent nights. All of the children were required to participate, either by singing or doing skits. Brooks learned to play both the guitar and banjo.
As a child, he often sang in casual family settings but his primary focus was athletics. In high school, he played football and baseball and ran track and field. He received a track scholarship to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where he competed in the javelin. Brooks graduated in 1984 with a degree in advertising. His roommate, Ty England, later played guitar in his road band until going solo in 1995.
Later that year, Brooks began his professional music career, singing and playing guitar in Oklahoma clubs and bars, most notably the Tumbleweed in Stillwater. Through his elder siblings, Brooks was exposed to a wide range of music. Although he listened to some country music, especially that of George Jones, Brooks was most fond of rock music, citing James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, and Townes Van Zandt as major influences. After hearing Unwound, George Strait's debut single, in 1981, Brooks decided that he was more interested in playing country music.
In 1985, entertainment attorney Rod Phelps drove from Dallas to listen to Brooks. Phelps liked what he heard and offered to produce Garth's first demo. With Phelps's encouragement, including a list of Phelps' contacts in Nashville and some of his credit cards, Brooks traveled to Nashville to pursue a recording contract; he returned to Oklahoma within 24 hours. Phelps continued to urge Brooks to return to Nashville, which he did. In 1986, Brooks married Sandy Mahl, whom he had met while working as a bouncer. In 1987, the couple moved to Nashville, and Brooks began making contacts in the music industry. The couple later had three daughters: Taylor Mayne Pearl (born 1992), August Anna (born 1994) and Allie Colleen (born 1996). The couple divorced in 1999. Garth Brooks remarried on December 10, 2005, to Trisha Yearwood, a leading country singer.
Brooks and fellow band member Jim Garver later reminisced of their times traveling with small shows at local bars. They would go so far as to set up local shows under the stage name "Yukon Jack" to re-live those days.
1989–1990: Breakthrough success
Garth Brooks's eponymous first album was released in 1989 and was a critical and chart success. It peaked at number 2 in the US country album chart and reached number 13 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart. Most of the album was traditionalist country, influenced in part by George Strait. The first single, "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)", was a country top 10 success. It was followed by his first country number-one, "If Tomorrow Never Comes". "Not Counting You" reached number 2, and then "The Dance" put him at number-one again; this song's theme of people dying while doing something they believe in resonated strongly and, together with a popular music video, directed by John Lloyd Miller, gave Brooks his first push towards a broader audience. Brooks has claimed that out of all the songs he has recorded, "The Dance" is his favorite.
His follow-up album, No Fences, was released in 1990 and spent 23 weeks as number-one on the Billboard country music chart. The album also reached number 3 on the pop chart, and eventually became Brooks's highest-selling album, with domestic shipments of 17 million. It contained what would become Brooks's signature song, the blue collar anthem "Friends in Low Places", as well as two other Brooks classics, the dramatic and controversial "The Thunder Rolls" and the philosophically ironic "Unanswered Prayers"
Each of these songs, as well as the affectionate "Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House", reached number-one on the country chart.
While Brooks's musical style placed him squarely within the boundaries of country music, he was strongly influenced by the 1970s singer-songwriter movement, especially the works of James Taylor (whom he idolized and named his first child after) and Dan Fogelberg. Similarly, Brooks was influenced by 1970s-era rock of Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen and the operatic rock of Queen with Freddie Mercury. In his highly successful live shows, Brooks used a wireless headset microphone to free himself to run about the stage, adding energy and arena rock theatrics to spice up the normally staid country music approach to concerts. The hard rock band KISS was also one of his earliest grade school musical influences and his shows often reflected this. Brooks said that the style of his show was inspired mostly by Chris LeDoux.
Brooks has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1990.
1991–93: Ropin' the Wind and The Chase
Brooks's third album, Ropin' the Wind, released in September 1991, had advance orders of 4 million copies and entered the pop album charts at number-one, a first for a country act. Ropin' the Wind's music was a melange of pop country and honky tonk; hits included Billy Joel's "Shameless", "What She's Doing Now", and "The River". All told, it became his second-best selling album after No Fences. The success of this album further propelled the sales of his first two albums, enabling Brooks to become the first country artist with three albums listed in the pop top 20 in one week.
After spending time in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots, Brooks co-wrote the gospel-country-rock hybrid "We Shall Be Free" to express his desire for tolerance. The song became the first single off his fourth album The Chase. It only reached number 12 on the country chart, his first song in three years to fail to make the top ten. Nevertheless, the song often received standing ovations when performed in concert, went to number 22 in the Christian charts through a marketing deal with Rick Hendrix Company, and earned Brooks a 1993 GLAAD Media Award. Following "We Shall Be Free", the next single released in would be "Somewhere Other Than the Night", which peaked at number 1 in late 1992, "Learning to Live Again", a number 2 hit in 1993. The final single off of The Chase would be 1993's "That Summer", which would go on to be the most successful single from the album, reaching number 1 in July 1993, it is also one of Brooks' most recognizable songs.
1993–94: In Pieces
In 1993, Garth Brooks, who had criticized music stores which sold used CDs since it led to a loss in royalty payments, persuaded Capitol Records not to ship his August 1993 album In Pieces to stores which engaged in this practice. This led to several anti-trust lawsuits against the record label and ended with Capitol shipping the CDs to the stores after all.
Despite the delay in shipping the album to certain stores, In Pieces was another instant No. 1 success, selling a total of about 10 million copies worldwide. Some of his fans were upset, however, that the album was not released simultaneously around the world. In the United Kingdom, one of Brooks's most committed fan bases outside the United States, country music disc jockeys, such as Martin Campbell and John Wellington, noted that many fans were buying the album on import. This made it the first album to debut in the top 10 of the UK Country album charts before its official release date. Once officially released there, in 1994, the album reached the top spot on the UK Country chart -albeit a particularly niche chart where few sales are needed to make the top slots – and number two on the UK pop albums chart. That same year "The Red Strokes" became Brooks's first single to make the pop top 40 in the UK, reaching a high of No. 13; it was followed by "Standing Outside The Fire", which reached No. 23. Previous albums No Fences, Ropin' The Wind and The Chase also remained in the top 30 in the UK.
To support the album, Brooks embarked on a 1994 UK tour, selling out venues such as Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre and London's Wembley Arena. He opened the London radio station, Country 1035 and made a number of general television and radio appearances, where he was often mocked by the presenters. On ITV's regional news show London Tonight, Brooks was described as "a top-selling, rooting tooting, cotton picking, Country and Western star, yeeha!" The nationwide Big Breakfast show's presenters Chris Evans and Paula Yates, commented that "He's selling more records than anyone in the world, but none of us have ever heard of him." Yates then told Brooks that, "Country singers always seem to be weeping over the dead dog and things," and also remarked, "I thought you'd come in here and twiddle your pistol around and be impressed." Although Brooks remained polite, he did observe that Yates was obviously unfamiliar with modern country music. Scores of Brooks fans later wrote to complain about his treatment on the show. Sometime after this, Dwight Yoakam appeared on the same show and after Yates told him, "You seem different from other country singers we've had on the show," Yoakam replied, "What? All two of us?"
Despite the disdain of the British media, Brooks's overall popularity in the country was evident, with a top disc jockey, Nick Barraclough, referring to Brooks as Garth Vader (a play on Darth Vader) for his "invasion" of the charts and his success in the country genre. Unlike Alan Jackson, who refused to return to the UK after being treated in a similar manner by the press, Brooks returned in 1996 for more sold-out concerts, although this time his media appearances were mostly restricted to country radio and interviews with magazines.
Elsewhere in the world Brooks was also considered a star, and he enjoyed hit records and sell-out tours in regions including Brazil, throughout Europe, the Far East, New Zealand, and Australia.
In 1994 Brooks paid homage to one of his musical influences when he appeared on the hard rock compilation Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, a collection of Kiss cover songs by popular artists from all genres. As the only country performer to participate, some worried that Brooks would turn his cover of the song originally sung by drummer Peter Criss, "Hard Luck Woman", into a country song. Brooks instead insisted on remaining true to the song, and requested that the members of Kiss perform the music on the track, the only song on the album that the band musically contributed. The unlikely collaboration performed the song live on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in promotion of Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, and despite its hard-rock appeal, Brooks's version did appear on the country charts.
Pop crossover success
1995–1998: Success in the mid-to-late 1990s
In November 1995 Brooks released Fresh Horses, his first album of new material in two years; 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. The album's lead single, "She's Every Woman" peaked at number-one on the Billboard Country Chart, however its follow-up single, "The Fever" (a cover of an Aerosmith song ) only peaked at number 23, becoming Brooks's first released Country single to not chart on the Top 10. However, Brooks had three additional Top 10 hits from the album following the second single, including "The Beaches of Cheyenne", that also hit number-one.
In 1997, Brooks released his seventh studio album, Sevens. Originally, it was scheduled to be released in August 1997, when he would promote it with a 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. The album was then released in November 1997, and debuted at number-one on both the Top Country Albums and Billboard 200 album charts in the United States, and later became his fourth album to reach a sales of 10 million copies. Its first single was also Brooks's first duet, "In Another's Eyes" with friend and popular country singer, Trisha Yearwood. The song peaked at number 2 on the Country Charts. The album spawned three additional Top 10 Country hits, including two number-one hits between 1997 and 1998, "Two Pina Coladas" and "To Make You Feel My Love", which also was a Top 10 hit on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and was released on the soundtrack to the movie Hope Floats.
1999: Chris Gaines
In 1999 Brooks and his production company Red Strokes Entertainment, with Paramount Pictures, began to develop a movie in which Brooks would star. The Lamb was to have revolved around Chris Gaines, a fictional rock singer and his emotionally conflicted life as a musician in the public eye. To create buzz for the project, Brooks took on the identity of Gaines in the October 1999 album Garth Brooks in ... The Life of Chris Gaines, which was intended as a 'pre-soundtrack' to the film. Brooks also subsequently appeared as Gaines in a television mockumentary for the VH1 series Behind the Music and as the musical guest on an episode of Saturday Night Live which he hosted as himself.
Brooks's endless promotion of the album and the film did not seem to stir much excitement and the failure of the Chris Gaines experiment became fairly evident mere weeks after the album was released. Although critics admired Brooks for taking a musical risk, the majority of the American public was either totally bewildered, or completely unreceptive to the idea of Garth Brooks as anything but a pop-country singer. Many of his fans also felt that by supporting the Gaines project they would lose the real Garth Brooks. Sales of the album were unspectacular and although it made it to number 2 on the pop album chart, expectations had been higher and retail stores began heavily discounting their oversupply. Less than expected sales of the album (more than two million) and no further developments in the production of the film as a result brought the project to an indefinite hiatus in February 2001 and Gaines quickly faded into obscurity.
Despite the less than spectacular response to the Chris Gaines project, Brooks gained his first – and only – US Top 40 pop single in "Lost in You", the first single from the album.
2000–2004: Official retirement
As his career flourished, Brooks seemed frustrated by the conflicts between career and family. He talked of retiring from performing in 1992 and 1995, but each time returned to touring. In 1999 Brooks appeared on The Nashville Network's Crook & Chase program and again mentioned retirement.
On October 26, 2000, Brooks officially announced his retirement from recording and performing. Later that evening, Capitol Records saluted his achievement of selling 100 million albums in the US with a lavish party at Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Brooks's final album, Scarecrow, was released on November 13, 2001. The album did not match the sales levels of Brooks's heyday, but still sold comfortably well, reaching number-one on both the pop and country charts. Although he staged a few performances for promotional purposes, Brooks stated that he would be retired from recording and performing at least until his youngest daughter, Allie, turned 18. Despite ceasing to record new material between 2002 and (most of) 2005, Brooks continued to chart with previously recorded material, including a top 30 placing for "Why Ain't I Running" in 2003.
In 2005, Brooks insisted that he was not touring and did not plan to record any new studio material until at least 2015. However, in August 2005 it was announced that Brooks had signed a deal with Wal-Mart, leasing them the rights to his back catalog following his split with Capitol. Three months later, Brooks and Wal-Mart issued The Limited Series, a six-CD box set containing past material and a Lost Sessions disc with eleven previously unissued recordings. This set marked the first time in history that a musician had signed an exclusive music distribution deal with a single retailer. The set sold more than 500,000 physical copies on its issue date, proving that Brooks still had a large fan base. By the first week in December 2005, it had sold over 1 million physical copies.
Brooks took a brief break from retirement early in 2005 to perform for several charity causes. With Yearwood, he sang Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain" on the Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast nationwide telethon for Hurricane Katrina relief. He also released a new single, "Good Ride Cowboy", as a tribute to his late friend, rodeo star and country singer, Chris LeDoux.
In early 2006 Wal-Mart issued The Lost Sessions as a single CD apart from the boxed set, with extra tracks including a top 25 duet with Yearwood, "Love Will Always Win". The couple were later nominated for a "Best Country Collaboration With Vocals" Grammy Award for the song.
On August 18, 2007, Brooks announced plans for a new boxed set called The Ultimate Hits. The new set features two discs containing 30 hits, three new songs, and a DVD featuring music videos for each of these songs. The album's first single, "More Than a Memory", was released to radio on August 27, 2007. "More Than a Memory" debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, becoming the highest-debuting single in the chart's history. The previous record had been set only one week earlier, when Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink" debuted at number 16.
In November 2007, Brooks performed nine sold-out shows in Kansas City at the Sprint Center, which had opened a month prior. Originally scheduled to be only one show, the performance expanded to nine due to incredibly high demand, with all nine shows (equaling about 140,000 tickets) selling out in under two hours. The shows took place from November 5 to November 12, with the final show on November 14 – the final show was simulcast to more than 300 movie theaters across the U.S.
2009–present: return to performing
On October 15, 2009, Brooks announced that he was coming out of retirement to do weekend performances at Encore Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip. This arrangement has continued into the fall of 2011. This schedule will allow Brooks to continue during the week to have the family life for which he had retired, and to continue to perform on the weekend. On October 28, 2010, Garth announced he would do his first "arena" concert in Nashville since 1998. All proceeds benefits the Community Foundation in Middle Tennessee in support of all those Tennessee residents affected by the disastrous flooding that occurred the weekend of May 2, 2010.
The financial terms of the agreement have not been announced, but Wynn did disclose that he gave Brooks access to a private jet to quickly transport him between Las Vegas and his home in Oklahoma.
Brooks's first weekend on shows in Vegas received positive reviews and was called the "antithesis of Vegas glitz and of the country singer's arena and stadium extravaganzas" by USA Today. The shows feature Brooks performing solo with his own guitar accompaniment, and include his own hits as well as songs that have influenced him. Artists covered in the show include Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Seger, Billy Joel, and Don McLean. His first performances at Encore Las Vegas coincided with his wedding anniversary, and his wife Trisha Yearwood joined him for two songs.
During a performance on August 19, 2011, Brooks told his audience that once his youngest daughter is in college he will be "firing the tour back up."
On July 12, 2012, for one night only, Brooks performed in front of a sold out audience at Scotiabank Saddledome to help the Calgary Stampede celebrate its centennial anniversary.
In October 2012, it was noted that Brooks was nearing the end of his residency at the Wynn in Las Vegas. During an interview, he mentioned that he would still do 'one-offs' and would like to record the show for possible DVD release. When asked about a comeback in 2014, he said, "We'll see..you know what's in my heart and what I wanna do, but we just can't say anything."
In April 2013, Brooks and George Strait performed together at the 48th annual ACMAs in a tribute to former ACMA producer Dick Clark, in the first such performance by two ACMA Artists of the Decade.
Brooks graduated from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where he starred on the track team. He was also a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, Pi chapter. He later completed his MBA from Oklahoma State and participated in the commencement ceremony on May 6, 2011.
Brooks married his college sweetheart, songwriter Sandy Mahl, on May 24, 1986. They met when Garth was a bouncer at a bar. Brooks and Mahl separated in March 1999, announcing their plans to divorce on October 9, 2000, and filing for divorce on November 6, 2000. The divorce became final on December 17, 2001. Throughout the mid-1990s, many tabloids reported that he was having an affair with longtime friend and collaborator Trisha Yearwood. The two have continually denied having had an affair. They did begin dating after Brooks's divorce, and married on December 10, 2005, at their home in Oklahoma, marking the second marriage for Brooks and the third for Yearwood. They own homes in Goodlettsville, Tennessee; Malibu, California; and Port St. Lucie, Florida, but primarily live on their ranch in Owasso, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa.
In 2000 Brooks attempted to donate part of his liver to country music contemporary, and close friend, Chris LeDoux; however, it was found to be incompatible. LeDoux received another donated liver, but died in March 2005 due to complications from liver cancer.
The Recording Industry Association of America announced that Garth Brooks was the best-selling solo artist of the 20th century in America. This conclusion drew criticism from the press and many music fans who were convinced that Elvis Presley had sold more records, but had been short-changed in the rankings due to faulty RIAA certification methods during his lifetime. Brooks, while proud of his sales accomplishments, stated that he too believed that Presley must have sold more.
The RIAA has since reexamined their methods for counting certifications. Under their revised methods, Presley became the best-selling solo artist in U.S. history, making Brooks the number two solo artist, ranking third overall, as The Beatles have sold more albums than either he or Presley. The revision brought more criticism of the accuracy of the RIAA's figures, this time from Brooks's followers.
On November 5, 2007, Brooks was again named the best selling solo artist in US history, surpassing Presley after audited sales of 123 million were announced.
In December 2010, several more of Presley's albums received certifications from the RIAA. As a result, Elvis again surpassed Brooks. As of June 2012, the RIAA lists Presley's total sales at 134.5 million and Brooks's at 128 million.
In 1999, Garth Brooks began the Teammates for Kids Foundation which provides financial aid to charities for children. The organization breaks down into three categories spanning three different sports.
The foundation enlists players to donate a predetermined sum of money depending on their game performance. Brooks has participated in spring training for the San Diego Padres in 1998 and 1999, the New York Mets in 2000 and, most recently, with the Kansas City Royals in 2004 to promote his foundation. Starting during the 2008 season, fans at Royals games in Kauffman Stadium now sing along to "Friends in Low Places".
Brooks is also a fundraiser for various other charities, including a number of children's charities and famine relief. He has also donated at least $1 million to wildlife causes. It was announced that Garth would perform a charity concert on January 25 and 26, 2008, at the Staples Center for the victims of the recent California Wildfires. On December 1, tickets went on sale and sold out within minutes, prompting them to announce 3 more shows. All 5 L.A. shows sold out in less than 59 minutes. CBS aired the first of these concerts (January 25 at 9 pm) live, giving viewers a chance to donate to the Firefighters Relief efforts.
In December 2010, Garth played 9 shows in less than a week in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena to benefit victims from the May 2010 Nashville flood. Over 140,000 tickets were sold and $5 million dollars raised.
A $500,000 donation Brooks made to Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital in Yukon, Oklahoma, in 2005, led to a widely-publicized lawsuit. According to Brooks, the hospital promised to name a new women's health center after his mother, Colleen Brooks, who died of cancer in 1999; the hospital later decided not to build the new facility, took the position that its naming commitment was non-binding, and refused to return the donation. On January 24, 2012, an Oklahoma state court jury in Claremore found in favor of Brooks, ordering the hospital to pay $500,000 for the original donation and an additional $500,000 in punitive damages.
Brooks, along with Trisha Yearwood, has supported Habitat for Humanity’s work over the years, including the annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. They have worked alongside the Carters in the United States and in Haiti, lending their time and voices to help build safe, decent and affordable homes. Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation provided more than $1 million in funding to Habitat to help build homes in Thailand following the Asian tsunami.