Garth Brooks, who is arguably the reigning King of Country, celebrates his 59th birthday on Sunday (Feb 7). We thought this would be a great opportunity to look back at all his many releases and rank Garth’s best songs to date.
The tracks here have all seen Garth top either the Hot Country songs or Country Airplay charts, in a career which has spanned over three decades and achieved millions of sales. Considering his longevity within the genre - and the array of hidden gems nestled amongst his 16 studio albums - it was a challenge to narrow down this list to just 10 songs, but we’ve sure given it our best shot.
Here are the best Garth Brooks songs according to Holler.
‘Ask Me How I Know’ was written by Mitch Rossell, and featured on Brooks’ 13th studio album, Gunslinger. The young songwriter idolised Brooks, whilst the superstar thought very highly of Rossell’s lyricism and vocal ability, leading to Rossell opening for Brooks on tour in 2016. In the song, the protagonist tries to pass on some words of wisdom about someone’s love life, drawing from their own experiences. “One day you’ll meet the girl / you swore you’d never find” Brooks belts out before going on to say; “Then she’ll leave and you won’t beg her not to go / ask me how I know”. The song peaked at number 13 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2017, but topped the Airplay charts in the same year, making it Brooks’ latest number one.
This classic love song, written and originally released by Bob Dylan, has seen a number of successful cover versions; from Billy Joel in 1997, to Adele in 2008. Brooks version, released in ‘98, topped the country charts and led to Grammy nominations for both Brooks and Dylan respectively, before featuring on the soundtrack of the film Hope Floats. Though it’s still very much a country reimagining, Brooks usual twang isn’t as audible as we hear a softer side to his voice. Nevertheless, he definitely puts his own stamp on this classic.
This song, about a man escaping to the beach and chasing his troubles away with two piña coladas topped both the US and Canadian country charts in 1998. Written by Shawn Camp, Benita Hill and Sandy Mason, the track’s latin feel is punctuated by guitar riffs, mostly played by Camp himself. It’s a real feel-good, mood booster of a song – the uplifting nature of the lyrics and production is solidified by the large crowd of singers that join Brooks for a rousing final chorus.
This 2007 hit’s brilliant chorus is unquestionably what makes this song so great, but the addition of the strings here really helps the emotion hit home. The mid-tempo ballad is a heartbreaker written by a three particularly famous faces: Lee Brice, Billy Montana and Kyle Jacobs. It was also produced by Allen Reynolds, a long-time collaborator of Brooks. At the time, it became the first song in the history of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart to go straight in at number 1.
This song pretty much does what it says on the tin, it’s a real Honky-Tonk anthem. Brooks released the song back in 1993, the second single from his sixth studio album In Pieces. Written by Brooks’ good friends and fellow artists Bryan Kennedy and Jim Rushing, it’s another that hauled itself up to the top of the charts. It’s certainly a number you could get up and dance to in downtown Nashville, the lyrics comparing bars to fraternal organisations or support groups for the working class. It’s a fun-filled classic from the Oklahoma native!
We go further back now in Brooks career to a song released in ’91. Though originally recorded by Tanya Tucker, Brooks was the first to release the song. Its quality lies in the lyrics; the title setting up a double entendre that at first takes on a literal meaning - referring to the weather - but which becomes a clear reference to the temper and emotion that passes between the two protagonists of the overall story. In Brooks original version, he omits the fourth verse - the implication that the woman in the song is going to kill her husband or herself due to the infidelity the reason. The verse however can be found on Tucker’s version and on Brooks’ own live recordings. It was nevertheless another number 1 for Brooks.
Another one of Brooks’ early hits. Released in 1993, it achieved success in the UK as well as in his homeland, after entering the top 30 - a rare feat for a Country artist at the time in the UK. It is an inspirational song; the focus lies with Brandon, a child with Down syndrome who chooses not to participate in his school’s Special Olympics, but instead signs up to the regular event. The video depicts an argument between his mother and father as to whether this is the right choice. There are nuggets of nostalgia within the setting of this shoot: it was filmed at the same school where Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher’ video and scenes from ‘Grease’ were filmed.
This has to be one of the greatest songs ever written, right? From that infamous piano run to the strings of the second verse, not to mention its flawless lyrics – kudos has to be given to Tony Arata, the writer behind this smash hit. It’s another sad song with a double meaning; it's a love song about the end of a relationship or a tragedy about someone dying whilst living their dream. The latter is what the music video focuses on, as it shows clips of bull rider Lane Frost, country singer Keith Whitley and minister/activist Martin Luther King Jr. Widely thought of as Brooks’ signature tune, ‘The Dance’ featured on his debut album and got to number 1, where it stayed for three weeks.
Undeniably one of Brooks’ most well-known tunes. ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ was written by Brooks and Kent Blazy and was released as the second single from Brooks’ debut album – one full of so many incredible songs. Contrary to popular belief, Brooks didn’t write this as a love song in the traditional sense, but instead about the love of a father to his daughter. He has often referred to this song as his signature, with it going on to reach number 1 in the States in 1989.
‘Friends In Low Places’ is a song everybody knows, even beyond the country fanbase. Have you actually visited the Honky-Tonk if the band hasn’t played this song at least once before you leave? Written by Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee, the pair came across the idea whilst dining out at a Nashville eatery. Lee had forgotten his wallet, and when asked how he was going to pay he replied, “Don’t worry, I have friends in low places, I know the cook.” They didn’t actually write the song until several months later, when at a friend’s number one party – where they scribbled the lyrics down on napkins. The song was given to Brooks to record before the release of his debut album. Brooks would become enamoured with the tune and request to put it out there himself. It featured on Brooks’ second album No Fences, which is one of his nine albums that have been given Diamond status by the RIAA for selling over 10 million copies.
Listen to Holler's playlist of Garth Brooks' Top 10 Hits below. Brooks' latest album, 'Fun', is out now via Pearl Records.
Photography courtesy of Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo