Certified by the RIAA as the #1 selling solo artist in US history, Garth Brooks has sold in excess of 128 million albums. He is the only solo artist in RIAA history to have 6 albums top the 10 million mark. His most recent release The Ultimate Hits has been certified 5 x platinum. This year Garth became the first artist to put out a simultaneous edition of his latest collection for a charitable cause. November 6, 2007 saw the launch of the pink edition of The Ultimate hits available only at the Susan G Komen website. His body of work – including the groundbreaking No Fences, Ropin’ The Wind, The Hits, and Double Live – propelled country music as a genre to the front pages of newspapers worldwide and the covers of magazines, to the point where Forbes declared on its cover, “Country Conquers Rock” and featured Garth in a major music piece. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Garth Brooks is the top-selling solo artist of the 20th century.
Assessing his career, the UK’s Country Music International determined that, “Garth Brooks has taken country music further than any other performer. He has reached the widest possible audience, gained phenomenal success, yet still retained the basic ingredients of country music. There is no compromise.”
It has been said that through the 1990s Garth's only real competition was himself. He brought daring individualism and a love of music, ranging from working class blues and honky tonk to bluegrass and arena rock, to the musical table. And he had the talent to serve it up tastily. His easy-going, approachable charisma was matched only by his fearless willingness to take chances and step outside the lines. He has had an unprecedented run so far, and opened the doors for many more country artists to follow.
1996 to Today:
In March of 1996 Garth launched a record-breaking, three-year concert tour, playing 350 shows in 100 cities, selling over 5.3 million tickets. He sold out practically every show on the tour, playing multiple shows in each city and consistently breaking venue attendance records set by the likes of Elvis Presley, The Grateful Dead, Elton John, and Neil Diamond. Amusement Business called it the top country music tour of all time, and likely the biggest arena tour ever.
In December of 1996, VH1 premiered Garth Brooks: Storytellers, as part of its critically acclaimed singer/songwriter series. This intimate look into Garth and his music doubled the ratings of shows featuring rock stars including Sting, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello and Melissa Etheridge.
In May 1997, Garth fulfilled a promise he’d made three years earlier to the people of Ireland. When Garth played Dublin in 1994, he formed such a connection with the country that he promised to return, and to bring cameras. And when he returned, a record-breaking 120,000 tickets were sold for Dublin’s Croke Park, May 16 – 18, 1997. (A previous sales record was held by U2, 1992.) Polls showed that one in every twenty people in Ireland wanted to attend the concerts. The resulting two-hour NBC special, Garth Brooks: Ireland and Back, first aired on March 5, 1998 and won the night in ratings with an audience of over 15.7 million.
More history was made on August 7, 1997, when Garth played a concert in Central Park and drew its largest-ever concert crowd. Garth -- Live From Central Park was the most watched and highest rated original program on HBO in 1997, beating all broadcast competition in the time period as well as three of the four networks combined. Based on HBO average ratings, Garth -- Live From Central Park was the most watched special on cable television in 1997. This phenomenal success, as well as his continuing tour, earned Garth 1997 CMA Entertainer of the Year honors and a Special Achievement Award from the ACM in 1998.
Garth appropriately titled his 1997 seventh studio album Sevens, another release that debuted at the top of Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and Country Albums chart. But the album made history before it was even released. The debut single, "Longneck Bottle," became the only single to be added by every Radio & Records reporting station on the day of its release. "Longneck Bottle" debuted in the R&R chart at No. 10, the highest single debut in its history. Other hits included "In Another's Eyes," the duet with Trisha Yearwood which earned them a Grammy in 1998 for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, "She's Gonna Make It," "Two Pina Coladas," "You Move Me" and "Do What You Gotta Do."
In May 1998 Garth released a boxed set, The Limited Series, so named because only two million units were produced. The Limited Series contained his first six multi-platinum releases as well as a bonus track on each CD. The package became the first boxed set to debut at #1 on two charts. It topped the country charts and became the first boxed set to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart since Soundscan's inception in 1991. Buoyed by the success of Sevens, the boxed set and his tour, Garth was again named CMA Entertainer of the Year in September 1998.
Coinciding with the end of his record-breaking tour, Double Live, released in November 1998, featured 25 cuts and over 100 minutes of music. It became the best-selling live album in music history. The first single from Double Live had special meaning for Garth. "I've been looking for the right song to sing for my mother ever since I started making music," Garth said. "Somehow I could never write it myself. Then one day Benita Hill played me a song she'd written with Pam Wolfe, titled 'It's Your Song.' Benita's mother had been ill -- as had my mother. I sat down and listened to it and tears started falling. When I recorded it I almost broke down. I told Benita that the sentiment expressed in that song was what I'd wanted to say to my mother all this time and just never found the words." (Colleen Brooks, former Capitol Records recording artist and Garth's first musical mentor, died on August 6, 1999.)
A second Christmas album was released in 1999, Garth Brooks: The Magic of Christmas. The album contained new music from the TNT original film Call Me Claus, starring Whoopi Goldberg. Garth was the executive producer for the film, with Goldberg and Lisa Sanderson, Garth’s partner in Red Strokes Entertainment. Call Me Claus was the most watched cable television movie of the season and one of the two highest-rated and most-watched cable movies of the year.
On October 26, 2000, Capitol Records threw a black-tie party at the Nashville Arena for Garth – One Decade, One Artist, One Hundred Million (albums sold) – a feat unmatched by any other solo artist in history. Garth received a congratulatory letter from President Bill Clinton, and video messages from friends including Sandra Bullock, Whitney Houston and Jay Leno. Garth acknowledged that he owed Capitol one more studio album, and that he also hoped to record a duet album with longtime friend and duet partner Trisha Yearwood. However, he said, he was stopping touring, moving to Oklahoma and going into semi-retirement.
“Today I am starting a new life.” Garth said. “My children and I are together every day,” he said. “I have asked my wife to be father and mother long enough. It’s time for me to accept my responsibilities and accept the true rewards that come with being a father.” Specifically, he talked about attending his daughter Taylor’s soccer game, saying, “I realized that in that one game I had more fun than in all ten years of touring.”
In a candid interview with Billboard’s Melinda Newman, Garth announced that he and wife Sandy had decided to divorce and were concentrating on remaining “…parents even if we’re not husband and wife.”
For those who followed Garth’s life and career, the move to Oklahoma should have been unsurprising. He had often expressed the sentiments he disclosed to Oklahoma Today as early as 1993, when he said he would love to raise his children in his home state. “Just to be raised in Oklahoma puts you on the board in the game of life,” he said. “If you were raised in Oklahoma, you were raised with all you need. There’s a rightness and a good-heartedness there that’s not anywhere else.”
His final studio album for Capitol, Scarecrow was released on November 13, 2001, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and Country Albums charts with first week sales of 465,523. This marked the 7th time he debuted at #1 on the Top 200 chart (more times than any other artist) and the 9th time to debut atop the Country Albums chart. It was the highest selling debut week for a country album since the release of Garth Brooks Double Live in 1998. It was also among the10 best selling country albums of 2001.
"I love the idea of the 'Scarecrow' -- a guy who is brainless, but who has a heart," Garth said of the title for his 2001 studio album. "This is the happiest record I've ever made." Like its predecessors, Scarecrow was big news. By its fourth week the album accounted for 21% of all country sales. Stellar duets on Scarecrow include "Beer Run" with George Jones and "Squeeze Me In" with Trisha Yearwood. Additional hits were “Wrapped Up in You,” "Why Ain't I Running" and "Thicker Than Blood."
Time said: "Scarecrow is a reminder that Brooks is a man with a significant gift. Like Elvis and Sinatra, Brooks isn't just a singer, but an interpreter." People addressed the retirement: "This is his best work to date. It pulses with human feeling. If this is to be the last disc from a superstar, what a way to go!"
Even though a banner headline in the Nashville Tennessean reading SAY IT AIN’T SO, GARTH was echoed across the country, Garth did return to his farm in Oklahoma. The day-to-day reality was a world away from Entertainment Weekly’s calling him one of the greatest entertainers of the second half of the 20th century in 1999, or Radio & Records naming Garth Brooks and Patsy Cline the Greatest Artists of the Century in its special issue: A Century of Country. It was a colossal leap from the 29th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles (2002) where he was presented with the Award of Merit, following previous winners Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Irving Berlin and Willie Nelson. But Garth happily replaced a life being chauffeured to the red carpet with a life in his pick-up truck chauffeuring his girls to their activities.
Over the course of the next few years Garth and his longtime duet partner and close friend Trisha Yearwood fell in love. In May of 2005, at the Legends in Bronze event at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, California, Garth got down on one knee and proposed to his best friend. On December 10, 2005, Garth and Trisha wed in a private ceremony in Oklahoma. Far from the celebrity spotlight, the two superstars repeated vows that included Garth’s daughters, Taylor, August and Allie.
The year 2005 had another high point for Garth when he was able to offer fans a collection of previously unreleased songs on a new CD, The Lost Sessions. In a partnership with WalMart, Garth delivered a boxed set which included a DVD, All Access, featuring live performance selections, interview segments and a photo gallery of over 150 pictures, plus Sevens, Scarecrow, Double Live and The Lost Sessions. “Good Ride Cowboy,” a Lost Sessions tribute to Garth’s friend, the late Chris LeDoux, was a runaway #1 hit, and the boxed set made WalMart sales history. A second DVD featuring music and photos from Garth’s television specials and a collection of his videos was released in November, 2006.
In 2007, after 9 years in retirement, Garth Brooks tied his own personal record for selling the highest number of tickets in any city in North America. The demand was so great that, as promised, Garth added first one more show, then another and another until obligations prevented him from adding more. This was accomplished in 1 hour and 58 minutes, with nine shows in total sold. Brooks final concert played from the brand new Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri was simulcast live to more than 300 movie theatres nationwide in association with National CineMedia’s FATHOM Events.
Garth started this year off with a bang when he performed five shows in two days – a feat believed to have never before been attempted by any artist. The tickets sold out in 59 minutes! CBS broadcasted Garth Brooks live in Los Angeles from STAPLES Center to benefit F.I.R.E. (Fire Intervention Relief Effort), a program created to help the recent fire victims and support the future of fire fighting in the state of California. All proceeds from the five concerts were donated to the Relief Effort.