November, 16 2002 CMT.com
Garth Brooks announced his impending retirement
from country music in October 2000, he had become, in just
nine meteoric years, the best-selling solo artist in the
history of recorded music. In the United States alone, his
albums had sold more than 100 million copies. Brooks' live
concerts were equally pace setting. During his 1996-1998
concert tour, he played 350 shows in 100 cities and sold
more than 5.3 million tickets. He sold more than 1.8 million
tickets in 1996, prompting the trade magazine Amusement
Business to rank it as the top country music tour of all
Garth Troyal Brooks was born on Feb. 7, 1962, in Tulsa, Okla., and raised in Yukon, Okla., just outside of Oklahoma City. His parents are Troyal Raymond Brooks and the late Colleen Carroll Brooks. Colleen Carroll recorded for Capitol Records in the 1950s and performed with Red Foley on the Ozark Jubilee.
Brooks attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, from which he graduated in 1984 with a degree in advertising. Drawn to country music by his admiration for George Strait, Brooks became a popular regional performer during his college years, both as the leader of a country band and as a guitar-picking soloist.
After an abortive one-day trip to Nashville in 1985, Brooks returned permanently in 1987. The following year, he signed a recording contract with Capitol Records. His first single for Capitol -- "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" -- was released in March 1989, and his first album, Garth Brooks, in April. Although his second single, "If Tomorrow Never Comes," went to No. 1, Brooks spent his first year in the shadow of fellow Class of '89 member Clint Black. Brooks' appeal began to grow with his fourth single, "The Dance," and its accompanying music video. Both these vehicles revealed a sensitive, introspective and philosophical side that seemed instantly attractive to younger fans. Then, in late 1990, came his raucous single, Friends In Low Places, and his second album, No Fences. From then on, Brooks began breaking boundaries and taking the rest of country music with him. No Fences became Brooks' first No. 1 album and went on to sell more than 16 million copies.
In 1993, Brooks performed the national anthem during pre-game festivities at the Super Bowl to an estimated television audience of more than 1 billion people in over 87 countries. "We Shall Be Free,"his award-winning music video, premiered during the telecast. Combining news footage with cameo appearances by Elizabeth Taylor, Lily Tomlin, General Colin Powell, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Bolton and Amy Grant, among other luminaries, the video and the song it was based on were pleas for tolerance and brotherhood.
As evidence of his cultural importance, Brooks began appearing on the cover of major magazines, among them Rolling Stone, Forbes, Time, George, Entertainment Weekly and The Saturday Evening Post. In 1994, Playboy named him "the King of Pop Music." He was interviewed by Barbara Walters for one of her ABC prime time television specials and by Jane Pauley for Dateline NBC. A frequent performer on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Brooks has also guested on Saturday Night Live (and twice hosted the show), The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Live With Regis & Kathie Lee, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Donny & Marie, The Howie Mandel Show, Today, Good Morning America, The Early Show and others.
Ropin' the Wind, Brooks' third album, released in September 1991, was the first ever to debut at No. 1 on both the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart and the Billboard Country Album Chart. The Chase (1992) and In Pieces (1993) were the second and third albums to do so. Sevens (1997) and Double Live (1998) also accomplished this feat.
Brooks' television credits include eight specials for NBC: This Is Garth Brooks (first airing January 1992), This Is Garth Brooks, Too! (first airing May 1994), Garth Brooks -- The Hits (January 1995), Tryin' to Rope the World (first airing December 1995), Garth Brooks: Ireland & Back (first airing March 1998), Garth Brooks Double Live (November 1998), Garth Brooks In . . . the Life of Chris Gaines (September 1999), and Garth Brooks & The Magic of Christmas (December 1999). On Aug. 7, 1997, Brooks drew the largest crowd ever to attend a concert in New York's Central Park. Garth Live From Central Park, airing on HBO, was the highest rated original program on HBO in 1997, as well as the most-watched special on cable television in 1997, drawing 14.6 million television viewers. The special beat all broadcast competition in the time period as well as three of the four major networks combined, according to Nielsen ratings.
Over the course of his career, Brooks has received virtually every accolade the recording industry can bestow on an artist. In addition to his Grammys, American Music Awards, Country Music Association awards, Academy of Country Music awards and People's Choice trophies, he was named artist of the '90s at the 1997 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards and artist of the decade by both the American Music Awards in 2000 and the Academy of Country Music in 1999.
In 1999, Brooks took a daring and ultimately self-injurious artistic risk by creating for an album in the alter ego of rock star Chris Gaines. Brooks commissioned special songs for the album, used veteran rocker Don Was as his producer and took on special vocal mannerisms for his fictional character. He even gave Gaines a long and colorful history, complete with a discography of "hit albums." Critics were almost universally vicious, both before and after the album made its debut, and Brooks was left with a project that failed to come close to the sale of his other albums. To date, Garth Brooks In . . . the Life of Chris Gaines has sold more than 2 million copies, spectacular by the standard of most artists, but not by Brooks'.
At the time he announced his retirement, Brooks said he would record one more album, after which he planned to concentrate on parenting and screenwriting.