7 Facts About Garth Brooks

Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp
Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp

Everyone has a friend who claims that he or she hates country music but loves Garth Brooks. With legendary live performances and songs that boast sing-in-the-shower catchiness, Brooks has captivated fans to the tune of more than 148 million records sold, making him the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history (sorry, Elvis).

Since bursting onto the scene almost 30 years ago with his self-titled 1989 debut album, Troyal Garth Brooks has slowed down a little in more recent years. A little. And while he now lists eating and napping as two of his favorite hobbies and claims he uses his guitar more to “hide my gut” than anything else, make no mistake about it: Brooks is far from done. Here are seven things you might not have known about the iconic musician, who turns 56 years old today.

1. HE MET HIS FIRST WIFE WHEN HE THREW HER OUT OF A BAR.

While working as a bouncer during his senior year of college, Brooks was required to toss an unruly woman. Little did he know that that woman, Sandy Mahl, would become his wife just a couple of years later.

“My job was to escort people out that caused disturbances,” Brooks recalled. “She beat me about nine times close to hell that night, too. I finally got her outside and I just kept noticing how cute she was … I asked her out. She told me to drop dead.”

The couple married in 1986 and divorced 15 years later. In 2005, Brooks married fellow country superstar Trisha Yearwood.

2. HE SANG WITH KISS.

It’s no secret that Brooks is a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan. In fact, his live shows during the 1990s were heavily influenced by acts like Queen and KISS. Fortunately for Brooks, KISS decided to produce a tribute album, Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, in 1994 and asked him to contribute. Brooks played with the band and sang lead vocals on the track “Hard Luck Woman.”

Brooks later sang the tune on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (which you can see in the clip above).

3. KEEPING UP HIS CHRIS GAINES ALTER EGO WAS TOO MUCH WORK.

In 1999 the album “Garth Brooks in… The Life of Chris Gaines” was released in an attempt to generate enthusiasm for a potential movie about Brooks’s fictional alter ego, Chris Gaines. Little enthusiasm occurred, however, and the movie was shelved. But Brooks has no regrets about the Chris Gaines experiment and would not be averse to revisiting it if it weren’t for the problem of weight and long hours.

“I love the music, and that’s what it’s all about,” Brooks said earlier this year. “Would I love to do a second one? Sure. Would I ever drop that much weight again? I don’t think I could.”

Brooks believes that his appearance was partly to blame for the failure of Chris Gaines:

“There is a ton of Garth in Chris, once you start to get familiar with Chris’s music. But one of the things that still will never settle easy with a lot of people, including my dad still doesn’t get it, is how this kind of face, that looks like this and has for a decade, sings a song that goes [sings in falsetto] ‘There’s no more waiting.’ It’s very strange to see that coming out of this face.”

“I got the sh*t kicked out of me for doing that,” Brooks told Larry King of his time as Chris Gaines. “That was fun to do though. Those guys work too hard for me. The guys in the pop world. We were up ‘til three or four every morning. Country music we’re at home eating dinner at six.”

4. HE TURNED DOWN A ROLE IN SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

At least allegedly. In 2013, a former business partner filed a lawsuit against Brooks in which she claimed, among other things, that Brooks was approached to play the role of Private Jackson (the part that eventually went to Barry Pepper) in Saving Private Ryan, but that Brooks did not want to be cast under Hanks’s shadow. The suit also claimed that Brooks turned down a role in Twister because “the star of the film was the tornado and Brooks wanted to be the star.”

5. HE WAS SIGNED TO A MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL CONTRACT.

MIKE FIALA/AFP/Getty Images

Brooks has always been a solid athlete; he earned a track and field scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he threw the javelin. In 1999 the San Diego Padres signed him to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. Brooks played mostly left field and finished the spring with one hit in 22 tries for a .045 batting average. After getting his first (and only) hit, Brooks was met at first base with a hug from future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. The next year, he signed with the New York Mets and took one more shot at the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals in 2004.

6. HE TRIED TO DONATE PART OF HIS LIVER.

When longtime friend and fellow country music artist Chris LeDoux was diagnosed with a disease of the bile ducts, Brooks graciously offered him a portion of his own liver. Although Brooks’s liver was incompatible, LeDoux was able to undergo a transplant in 2000 and release two more albums before being diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct in 2004. He passed away the following year.

7. HE HAS AN MBA.

Brooks has great business acumen (it would be hard to sell 148 million albums without it). In 2011 he was able to make it official, however, when he received his Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. And not an honorary one, either—this one was legit.

13 Great Rockumentaries Every Music (and Movie) Fan Should See

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

More people are watching documentaries these days, which likely means that more people are rocking their faces off with nonfiction. Far from Ken Burns’s soothing tones, these music-filled films demand amplification and an unseemly amount of perspiration.

Rock documentaries are tricky beasts. Though they often have the built-in advantage of following around famous people, they aren’t immune to boredom and eye-rolling faux depth. Keeping it simple by showcasing the music can be good, but it’s no way to be great. The best of the best manage to deliver a stellar soundscape, offer a backstage pass to the real humans who make it, and hold our ears even if we aren’t already devoted fans. If a little history gets made in the process, even better.

Grab a seat next to Penny Lane on the bus. Here are 13 of the best documentaries that every music—and film—fan should add to their Must Watch list.

1. WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE U.S.A. (1964)

A singular piece of filmmaking where nonfiction talent met transcendent musical genius on the threshold of gargantuan stardom, this is the best Beatles documentary ever produced. Directed by legendary documentarians Albert and David Maysles, the film captures the band’s first frivolous jaunt through America, where they raised the screaming decibel level in The Ed Sullivan Show theater and goofed off in hotel rooms. It’s an explosion of youth before they changed music forever.

2. DON’T LOOK BACK (1967)

Another marriage of style, skill, and subject, Don't Look Back helped shape how the rockumentary genre could provide insights into the people who shape our popular culture. That so many iconic moments emerged from D.A. Pennebaker’s watershed work, which strolled with Bob Dylan through England in 1965, is a testament to the legendary musician's infinite magnetism. The cue cards, singing with Joan Baez in a hotel room on the edge of breaking up, the Mississippi voter registration rally, and on and on. Since it portrayed fame’s effect on the artist, the art, and the audience, most every other rock doc has been chasing its brilliance.

3. GIMME SHELTER (1970)

The rockumentary has evolved to be as diverse as the sonic landscape itself, which is why Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping can send up the current scene just like This Is Spinal Tap! did in the 1980s. Still, 1970 feels like the year that defined the rockumentary. Another Maysles joint, this profound doc captured The Rolling Stones touring at a time when they were one of the biggest bands in the world and only getting bigger. The music is powerful and immediate, and the film closes with their appearance at the Altamont Free Concert, which turned deadly when—after a day of skirmishes between concertgoers and the Hell’s Angels acting as security—a fan with a gun was stabbed to death when he tried to get on stage during “Under My Thumb.”

4. WOODSTOCK (1970)

The other 1970 film that helped define the genre allowed thousands to claim they’d been to the biggest concert event of the generation without actually going. If rock ‘n’ roll emerged from unruly teenage years into conflicted young adulthood in the 1960s, nothing stamped that image in henna ink better than Woodstock and the documentary that accompanied it. The bands that appear are legendary: Crosby, Stills & Nash; The Who; Joe Cocker singing The Beatles; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and many more. It’s a fly-by of the three days of peace and music that you could play on repeat with summery ease.

5. ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1973)

Rock doc royalty D.A. Pennebaker captured David Bowie’s final performance in his red-domed sci-fi persona at London's Hammersmith Odeon with a flair that captures the frenetic energy of the room. The crowd is as much a part of the moment as the band is, as the camera places you in the middle of a transitional moment in music history. To see Bowie that close up now is a wonder. And, naturally, the music is out of this world.

6. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)

Instead of following the famous, Penelope Spheeris’s debut dug its nails deep into the Los Angeles punk scene at the turn of the decade. Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and other bands your parents have never heard of perform mosh pit-sparking anthems and show off their living conditions like a grungy proto-version of MTV Cribs. There’s a purity here missing from most music docs—a chronicle of people whose passion far, far outweighs their paychecks, and a screening that led the LAPD to request that the movie never be shown in LA again.

7. SIGN "☮" THE TIMES (1987)

Having Prince at the center of your concert doc is a shortcut to ensuring it’s one of the best of all time. There’s the music, of course. Hits like “Little Red Corvette” and “U Got the Look,” and Sheila E. beating the hell out of her drum kit. There’s also The Purple One's inexhaustible energy and stage presence. As a bonus, the film jumps between concert footage and (instead of candid hotel conversations) a sci-fi narrative where we get to go to Prince Planet. It’s a rocky, disorienting experience that could have only been held so tightly together by a master showman.

8. MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE (1991)

It might be hard to explain to a younger audience just how dominant Madonna was as an artist coming out of the 1980s or the kind of landmark event this film represented because of her status. The travelogue of her Blonde Ambition Tour was like peeking into the insane world of the ultra-famous—not least because Madonna was dating Warren Beatty at the time and part of the film involves her hanging out with Al Pacino, Lionel Richie, and more. There are threats that the Canadian police will arrest her for simulating masturbation in her show, the Pope trying to get the tour canceled in Italy, and a slightly awkward return home to see family. All par for the course for someone whose personal life was carved up for public consumption.

9. RHYME & REASON (1997)

An unparalleled look into the lyricism and lifestyle of rap musicians from the genre’s rise through its global domination of the 1990s, the concert and party footage is fantastic, and the number of interviews is staggering. Peter Spirer spoke with more than 80 rap and hip-hop artists to craft a snapshot of what life was like for a group of musicians who discovered their voices could echo across the world as well as those who followed after to even greater success. Instead of going deep on one person behind the music, it’s a historical document of the culture itself as seen through the eyes of those at its very center.

10. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (2005)

For those who don’t know Daniel Johnston’s music, this doc is a crash course not only in its stripped-down, anti-folk vibes but the head it all comes spilling out of. Instead of romanticizing or ignoring his bipolar disorder, Jeff Feuerzeig’s movie engages with it directly, drawing beautiful gems from a troubled mind. An absolute masterpiece, it’s less a vision of a musician giving glimpses into his real life than it is a vision of a human being who makes music.

11. AWESOME; I F*CKIN’ SHOT THAT! (2006)

Rockumentaries follow two major formats: the raw concert doc that’s like a ticket to a show you couldn’t attend, and the profile where artists drop quotables in between performances. They’re safe and familiar, which is probably why the Beastie Boys gave both styles the middle finger in favor of a grand experiment. A year before YouTube launched, the rap trio gave 50 fans in their Madison Square Garden audience camcorders to capture the concert. The result is a genuine, fans’-eye-view of the experience, and a chaotic mashup of perspectives.

12. THE PUNK SINGER (2013)

It’s astonishing how much time and ground Sini Anderson’s portrait of Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna covers. It’s so much that labeling her Bikini Kill’s leader is woefully reductive. Artist, pioneer, feminist, activist, and a dozen other titles swirl around Hanna’s sweat-covered brow as we get to know her both as an artist and as a person. It’s also a punk fever dream of riot grrrl greatness, featuring incendiary archival footage and excellent talks with members of Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, and Julie Ruin, as well as Carrie Brownstein and the Beastie Boys’s Adam Horovitz (who is also Hanna’s husband).

13. JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (2015)

A fairly recent addition to the pantheon, Amy J. Berg’s doc is a stirring tour of archival footage of the gravel-throated songstress. Narrated by musician Cat Power, instead of losing perspective to the fog of history, a blend of modern conversations and ghosts from the past offer fresh eyes and ears to create a heartsick celebration of one of music history's most beloved artists, whose career was cut woefully short.

20 Memorable Elvis Presley Quotes

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

More than 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley remains a rock ‘n' roll icon and has yet to be ousted from his position as “The King.” Yet the Tupelo, Mississippi-born, Memphis, Tennessee-raised superstar never took his fame for granted, nor did he forget his roots. Here are 20 memorable quotes about Elvis’s life and legacy.

ON AMBITION

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

ON MAINTAINING YOUR VALUES

“It's not how much you have that makes people look up to you, it's who you are.”

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.”

ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

“I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend.”

“I've never written a song in my life. It's all a big hoax.”

“I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.”

ON THE ARMY

“After a hard day of basic training, you could eat a rattlesnake.”

“The army teaches boys to think like men.”

ON TRUTH

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.”

ON THOSE LEGENDARY DANCE MOVES

“Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it.”

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess.”

ON KEEPING POSITIVE

“When things go wrong, don't go with them.”

ON STARDOM

“If you let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.”

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.”

“The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.”

“The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.”

ON LOVE

“Sad thing is, you can still love someone and be wrong for them.”

ON THE PITFALLS OF HOLLYWOOD

“I sure lost my musical direction in Hollywood. My songs were the same conveyer belt mass production, just like most of my movies were.”

ON GETTING OLDER

“Every time I think that I'm getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.”

ON LEAVING A LEGACY

“Do something worth remembering.”

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