That Garth Brooks’ Video

GARTHOn the cell phone video, shot in Minneapolis and seen by over five million people in just five days, you first get a glimpse of the woman holding up the sign projected on a huge screen behind the drummer. It can be seen exactly at the 1:16 mark, and the words are written all in upper case letters. The crowd cheers. At 1:55 she is seen standing at the edge of the stage. After that…well…I posted it at the bottom. You can go watch it to see what happens.

Her name is Teresa Shaw. She has stage three breast cancer.


I first met Garth Brooks in a nondescript three-story glass office building in Burbank California, maybe eight or nine months after his first album had been released in April 1989. Outside of the fact he was wearing Wranglers instead of Levis, he looked and talked like any other twenty nine year old musician trying to to catch a break in the music business. But from that first meeting, you knew he was different.

Very interested in what we did in that office, he wandered around, introduced himself to everybody and asked a lot of questions. We were the unit of Capitol-EMI Music that made sure his albums were on the shelves, displayed, advertised, promoted and available for purchase. For most musicians, this part of the music industry was a drag, best left to the bean counters. But not for this marketing major from Oklahoma. He soaked it up.

Although his first single had landed in the top ten on the country charts, and another was making it’s way to number one, we’re talking about country music twenty-five years ago. Which is to say, outside of certain pockets in the South and Texas, and small rural towns where a discount retailer named Walmart was starting to build these giant buildings that would soon devastate Main Street, country music was small potatoes. Except for a few cowboys like George Strait and mostly crossover pop artists, country meant low sales and little interest.


By the Spring of 1990, Garth was riding high on country radio with his third charting single and in the midst of it all, Capitol-Nashville fired all of their executives and replaced them with the team who had run MCA Records. I don’t know whether or not it was already in the works or if it was the new folks’ idea, but someone decided to put out a fourth single accompanied by a video. It was called “The Dance”.

The last track on the album, Garth had heard it sung by the co-author, Tony Arcata at an open mic a year or so earlier in Nashville. He told Tony that if he ever got a label deal, he’d record it. Garth was working at a store selling boots at the time, and Tony loaded trucks for UPS.

Inspired by the movie Peggy Sue Gets Married…yeah, really…I’ve always thought it is a beautifully crafted song…but it was the video featuring Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, the astronauts from the space shuttle Challenger , John Wayne and others who lost their lives that broke it wide open and propelled Garth and as a by-product, modern country music itself, to where it is today. For better or worse.


For a moment, let’s put aside all the negative feelings that the entire Nashville corporate music machine stirs up, especially for people like us who prefer something we call roots music. But there is truth in that for almost everything wrong with country music today, you can point the finger at Garth Brooks.

He replaced the importance of recorded music with grand scripted and choreographed concert performances on a scale not ever seen by country music fans. (Not surprising, his favorite band growing up was Kiss.) The sales and marketing of his music are tied deeply with the growth of Walmart, up to the point where eventually they became the only place you could buy his music. And as he developed into a shrewd businessman, he became a ruthless negotiator that caused many to bristle, and others to lose their jobs.

Yet…and always…there is another side.


Throughout my time when I would get to work with and see him on occasion, which stretched into 1996 and was prior to the infamous Chris Gaines experiment, I got to know a man of extraordinary talent and generosity who genuinely cared for people. Not just limited to those who could help him climb the ladder, but he’d talk to people….fans, friends, business folks, everyone…for hours and hours about themselves, their dreams, their families, fears and love. Looking into their eyes and connecting on a human level? It’s a quality that rarely will accompany celebrity and fame.

For me, it wasn’t very surprising when he decided to pack up the tent and move back to Oklahoma in order to spend time raising his kids. I’d been with him in the days right after the birth of his first and second daughters, and there was a sense of love and pride and responsibility that just seemed to pour out of him. People change, but core values are ingrained. And such has been the way I’ve tried to see Garth. The man retired for a dozen years, and now he’s back; embarking on a world tour and ready to release new music.


I cry easily. Seriously, it doesn’t take very much for me to choke up. It could be the ending of a film, a song lyric, a passage in a book, a news story on television, old memories, thoughts about the future or even something as crazy as a scene from a reality show like Dog the Bounty Hunter or Jerseylicious. The lyrics to “The Dance” have always made me cry. Just the opening piano piece is enough to get my body to shake…but it’s the chorus that gets me every time:

And now I’m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end, the way it all would go.

Our lives are better left to chance

I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.


Go ahead….if you haven’t yet, just do it. Make it full-screen so you can see what happens as he sits down on the edge of the stage. Hear what he says as he gets ready to leave the hall. Just so you know, Garth lost his mother and sister to cancer. As he pointed to and screamed at Teresa Shaw in front of the thousands of people…‘you go and kick cancer’s ass.”

I’ve cried every time I watch this. Maybe you will too. Maybe not.