I had a crush on a redhead girl back in 1991 and wanted to learn more about her – one time when we were talking she mentioned liking Garth Brooks. I had no idea who this guy was but I wanted to figure it out so I asked around.
“Country crap” is what they told me. Country wasn’t cool (no matter what Barbara Mandrell sang) and most of my friends didn’t want anything to do with an up and coming new artist if he wore a cowboy hat and boots. But I was hoping to impress this girl so I kept searching. I finally heard that song “Friends In Low Places” and I liked that quite a lot – many people at the bars would sing along with that one even if it was country. I was slowly introduced to a few others and I guess he wasn’t that bad. That red headed girl and I didn’t ever end up going out – she probably saw in me what I was afraid to look at myself.
Garth made his first big TV special back in January of 1992 and I commandeered the TV in the house I was drinking at (you can’t really call it living) rent free. The show was called “This Is Garth Brooks” and it introduced Garth to an even larger audience and gave us a show on TV that was close to what you’d see i you were at one of his concerts. It was amazing – this guy was alive on stage like nothing I had ever seen and he kept my attention. It rocked my world when he sang Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” and made me stand up and sing a long. That special introduced me to some songs I hadn’t heard before and gave me a little background into Garth and how he became the man he was up to that point.
I became a little obsessed with the guy – I had started to accept that I “might” be gay and he was an attractive guy. It helped that he was loving and tolerant of others and that his words rang true when I’d hear them sung or read them on t-shirts and posters – one of my favorites:
“Success does not mean happiness, happiness means success.”
Sappy isn’t it.. but I ate it up. I needed it – I had entered the depths of my alcoholism and was searching for something to hold on to. I knew every song by heart, could sing it (I thought) as well as Garth himself and had a cassette of each album (wow… cassettes). Most of my friends were tired of it when I first started playing it but I didn’t let up.
In 2000 Garth Brooks came to sing at the Equality Rocks Concert in Washington DC. As soon as I heard he was coming I bought tickets – they were on the floor, tenth row back and cost a little bit of dough. But I could hardly contain myself waiting for him to come on. There were a bunch of other acts – Melissa Etheridge, Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang… but one of my other favorites was there too – George Michael. I was sitting next to a straight black girl who was as obsessed with George as I was with Garth – we became friends there waiting for our heroes to come on stage – sharing stories of why they meant so much to us. She’d been to see George all over the country and wouldn’t miss this chance even if he was going to share the stage with these other folks. We were blessed with a performance by George and Garth together – it was amazing, George stole Garth’s hat and… it was a very brief performance by my guy, but it is one of those moments that I hold on to (I actually have that ticket stub still).
Garth announced his current world tour and I heard he would be coming to Phoenix. I was interested. I asked a guy I’m seeing if he liked Garth, he said yes and I was going to look for tickets on the day they were available to see how pricey they were and if they were available at all. But as often happens – I got distracted and forgot about it. But he didn’t… he found us tickets and called me (he never calls I figured something bad happened). We had great seats (even though we were standing – like everyone else) for the show.
Garth came out and did one song of his current album (I didn’t know he had a current album – my bad 😦 ) and then got to work on the old stuff. It was great – I sang a long to every song, just like everybody else. My date was dancing and swaying and singing along as well. Garth’s wife came out and sang a duet with him and then a bunch of her great songs before Garth ended the night with more of the songs I’ve come to know.
Tonight I really had a nice time and it’s one of those things I wasn’t sure was going to ever happen (the guy’s retired a few times and I wasn’t sure he was coming back). I don’t know what it is about him, but he stuck with me all though these past decades and I still find myself singing along to every song and knowing he’s singing just to me. He’s sung about equality, lots of rodeos, love, loss and fun… he’s probably the soundtrack I think about most when I look at my life.
One of the last songs he sang tonight was Shameless (a Billy Joel song) and it’s just this powerful, soulful song just really gets me… here’s a link to the I think the official video Shameless
I hope you have had the chance to find that one special artist that does it for you, that can bring you to the places that Garth has brought me.