In December, Garth Brooks emerged as one of the first big names to reportedly turn down playing the upcoming Donald Trump inauguration.
For many, the decision seemed like a strong rebuke from the king of a country genre believed to lean to the right. Brooks initially said performing at an inauguration is an honor regardless of who takes the oath. He then clarified that he would, however, not play.
While many praised Brooks, some of his more conservative fans recently expressed disappointment during a recent “Inside Studio G” segment. In the series, Brooks uses Facebook Live to stream updates and connect with fans.
Brooks told fans the decision came down to “karma” and touring schedules. “If Cincinnati goes two weekends instead of one, then of course we are out,” Brooks says. Thanks to strong ticket sales, the singer added three more shows in the city, booking him up for inauguration.
Even Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn couldn’t deliver Brooks for Trump. Wynn has been a great friend of Brooks ever since Garth ran his Las Vegas residency. He joined the inauguration planning team but couldn’t deliver any of his vaunted Vegas acts.
Brooks also went further on the matter, addressing the political climate directly. “I’ll tell you with this whole presidential thing, we got one going out: pray for him and his family,” Brooks says. “And for the president going in, pray for him and his family to guide this nation. Let’s stay together. Love, unity — that’s what it’s all about.” (And here we all thought the hokey pokey was what it was all about).
Then, Brooks tipped his political hand further. “We can’t thank the Obamas enough for serving this country,” Brooks says. “And may God hold Trump’s hand in the decisions that he makes in this country’s name as well.”
Brooks handled the situation about as diplomatically as possible. Of course, we all know he planned on adding those Cincinnati shows anyways. His mammoth tour sells out everywhere and the venue keeps those dates on hold knowing he’ll add more shows, regardless of the Trump inauguration.
But Brooks still walked a fine line with some of his fans who seem upset that he probably doesn’t share the same political views they do.
Of course, most true Garth Brooks fans shouldn’t be surprised if the legendary musician leans left, or at the very least away from the Trump spectrum. His 1992 song, “We Shall Be Free,” tackled all sorts of hot button issues, from homophobia to racism, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. A few years later his song “The Change” echoed the sentiments of a more loving, understanding world.
Realistically, Brooks’ brand is untouchable. He didn’t have to say anything at all about the matter. But in doing so, he showed a stunning amount of diplomacy. And the rest of the country that stereotypes about country music are just that — stereotypes.
Part of the reason country music has seen such a huge growth in popularity is its expanding inclusiveness. Artists like Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell stand up for equality and are lauded for it. Meanwhile, most mainstream artists keep their mouths shut for fear of brand backlash. But that shouldn’t be the case, and Brooks’ tempered and even-handed response proves artists can and should be able to speak on contentious issues.
In making the comments, Brooks showed respect for the country while also engaging in optimism opposed to pessimism. After all, “May God hold Trump’s hand” sounds a lot better than “May God help us all.”
He may lose a few fans for the statement, but he likely just earned a whole lot more.