Garth Brooks, whose “appeal as a performer, songwriter and humanitarian has brought many new fans into the world of country music,” is the next recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the Library of Congress announced today (Oct. 2).
“During his career, Brooks has set countless records, earned numerous awards and elevated country music into a national anthem of the American people,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in making the announcement.
Brooks joins Willie Nelson to become the second country music superstar to be honored with the prestigious award, and takes his place among previous recipients including Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett and Emilio and Gloria Estefan.
“An award is only as good as the names on it,” Brooks said in a statement. “First off, for any musician, the name Gershwin says it all. Add to Ira’s and George’s names the names of the past recipients, and you have an award of the highest honor. I am truly humbled.”
The Library of Congress takes note of Brooks as “one of the major changemakers in the history of country music. His music weaves the beauty of poetry, the universality of the human experience and the inclusiveness of other musical genres, making him one of the most influential performers in country music today. He has combined the sound of traditional country music with the performance style of arena rock legends of the 1970s, creating a unique artistic vision.”
Citing works including Brooks’ first No. 1 single, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “We Shall Be Free,” which won a GLADD Media Award in 1993 for addressing homophobia, homelessness and racism,” the Library of Congress says Brooks “showed his knack for expressing very personal feelings that touch on universal truths. The songs that he has written, as well as those he has chosen to record, have often moved beyond the traditional subject matter for country music.”
Brooks’ extensive charity efforts, including his foundation, Teammates For Kids, are also cited in the announcement. He ralso eceived the inaugural George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award for Caring and Compassion for his humanitarian efforts.
Of course, Brooks popularity extends beyond his songwriting and recorded efforts as he has been a top concert draw throughout his career.
He was the inaugural inductee to Pollstar’s Live Hall of Fame during Pollstar Live! in 2018.
While he’s currently visiting relatively tiny venues on his “Summer of Dive Bars” tour, for the last several years the megastar has been touring stadiums and arenas – for multiple dates at a time – including a record-setting 72,887 tickets sold for a single show at Heinz Arena in Pittsburgh May 18.
Brooks will receive the prize at an all-star tribute concert in Washington, D.C., in March 2020. The concert will air on PBS stations nationwide in spring 2020 (a broadcast date will be confirmed at a later time). The program also will be broadcast via the American Forces Network to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.