Garth Brooks is the recipient of the Gershwin Prize for popular song tonight. Such an honor is beyond well deserved. My childhood had two anchors music artist wise: Billy Joel and Garth. Mama bought a tape of his album The Hits when I was in elementary school. I had my school chorus audition before school one morning and mama put the Garth tape in on the way. I had never heard country music sound like that. I grew up listening to country music mind you. The first song, on a tape, I remember singing along with was Georgia On My Mind by Willie. I was a huge Willie fan growing up. I still am, but no one I had ever heard sing country music sounded like what was coming out of the speakers on the way to school that morning.
Why? Garth was straddling country, rock, blues, and soul. This is country? I’m good with this. This is wonderful! He covers Billy, specifically, a song off Storm Front called Shameless. For those that didn’t read my post about Billy and Storm Front: it’s my favorite record…EVER. If you cover something off that record and do it well: you’re beyond cool in my eyes. Garth rose to the challenge when I was fully prepared to dislike his version. I didn’t. As I absorbed the music of Garth, that morning, I started to sing along even though I didn’t know all the words.
It was my warm-up before my warm-up before my chorus audition. I made it into chorus. Rehearsals were before school, and more times than not mama and I would sing along to either Garth or Billy depending on how I was feeling. My warm-up before going to rehearsal were my musical heroes. That explains my childhood better than most other explanations. I was the super cool child…not.
Garth’s music became part of who I am. If I have a bad day, feel off, or low Garth is definitely on the playlist. His music makes me happy. Some have let it be known that Garth wasn’t appropriate music for a child’s ears and criticized mama for letting me listen. To those I say: I turned out better than fine. Mama raised me with values, respect, kindness, and lots of love and faith in God. Garth’s music didn’t make any of those things any less. It allowed me to have fun and let go. What a gift to give your only child. When I hear or read anyone talking badly about mama I get really defensive and protective because I’m the most blessed daughter on the planet to call her mama and friend. If I turn out to be half the woman she is: I will have succeeded.
When Garth retired: I thought I’ll never get to see him live. Flash back to a few years ago: I spent a couple of hours on the phone to buy tickets to see Garth live in Atlanta. It was an early Birthday present from my parents. It was the loudest, most rocking, show I’ve ever been to. It was a big party and the best way to celebrate my birthday. We had a blast! My dad still talks about the show. If dad keeps talking about how great it was: y’all it was GOOD! Love you, dad. I love teasing you as much as you love teasing me, too.
Garth reminds a little girl who looks like me: it’s okay to be different and the bravest act is to be yourself. While being myself, it’s more than okay to have fun, too. Turn the music up and sing when stuff gets tough. That’s where thriving with anything lives: by being yourself and turning up the music to help you process every emotion you have…at least in my experience. Garth’s artistry and music have helped me thrive since I was very young. Thank you, for that, Garth from pretty much a lifelong fan.