‘Gershwin Prize’ – Brooks is youngest recipient of lofty honor
The next time you hear a song you really love, Garth Brooks has one request.
“Do me a favor,” he says. “Go a little bit past the artist and find out who the writer is. And my thought always is … you’ll find that other artists have covered some of their stuff. And what you’re going to find is there’s something about that writer that’s touching you even more than the artist is. And I think that’s the cool thing about songwriting.”
Sunday, March 29, on PBS (check local listings), the artist responsible for such hits as “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” “The Thunder Rolls” and his signature “Friends in Low Places” adds another honor to his ever-growing trophy case on “Garth Brooks: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.”
Recorded March 4 at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., the 90-minute tribute concert features performances by Keith Urban, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Stapleton, Keb’ Mo’, Lee Brice, host Jay Leno and the Howard University Choir, as well as by Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood.
At 58, Brooks is the youngest artist to receive the prestigious prize and he says he’s humbled.
“I’m proud that a country artist will get to fly the country flag this week in D.C.,” he says. “There are a million people that deserve to be in this seat more than I do but it represents the songwriters. That’s what I love and the songwriters are the seeds to everything.”
As an example, he cites “Friends in Low Places.” Written in 1989 by Earl Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell, the song has become what Brooks jokingly calls the “drunk anthem of our lifetime” but he explains that it was originally intended for another artist.
“I was the voice they chose to pitch ‘Friends in Low Places’ to George Strait,” he recalls, “so I got to be there from the very first downbeat. And the last thing I told him was, ‘Hey, I’m on the verge of getting a record deal myself …’ I didn’t get finished, the door closed and that was it.
“But it worked out,” he continues. “The song kind of hung around for about a year and a half in (Nashville), and when they heard I got my record deal, they said, ‘Hey, do you remember this song?’ And I said, ‘I’ve been singing it every day since.’ They said, ‘Would you think about cutting it?’ … So we went in, cut ‘Friends in Low Places’ in a (small) room … and then we crammed 50-75 people in there for the sing-along at the end and it was great.”
“I can’t imagine my career without ‘Friends in Low Places.’ ”