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Celebrating Garth Brooks' Birthday With His Seven Most Awkward Moments

Born February 7, 1962, Garth Brooks has achieved the distinction of being one of the best-selling artists of the past 20 years. This is true not only in the realm of country, which he clearly dominated, but in the pop world overall. 

Indeed, while country music provides the predominant thread that links his recordings, his fondness for the singer/songwriter genre of the early- to mid-'70s, like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg, may be one reason he's garnered such a popular following. 

As it is, Brooks can boast one of the most successful careers in recent music history, given the records he's set for album sales and concert attendance. Brooks now ranks as the best-selling album artist of the past 20 years, surpassing even the Beatles and coming in second only to Elvis Presley as the most successful album artist of all time. Six of his albums have been elevated to platinum status, a distinction that signifies sales of a million copies. 

His popularity is also reflected in reams of awards. He's received two Grammys, 16 American Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, ten People's Choice Awards, 24 Billboard Music Awards, and even two Emmy nominations and a nod for a Golden Globe.

While Brooks seems to be widely adored by everyone, other than those who object to his dual-toned red-and-black shirts and oversized cowboy hats, he has made the occasional misstep. None of which, by the way, have anything to do with his distinctive if somewhat dorky-looking stage garb.

Feeling Used

In 1993, Brooks persuaded his label, Capitol Records, not to ship his then new album, In Pieces, to stores in the habit of selling used CDs. This resulted in several antitrust suits against the label, forcing Capitol to ship the product to the stores after all.

Radio Play

During a 1994 British tour, he inadvertently found himself caught up in controversy when the hosts of an entertainment program turned on him with a decidedly condescending attitude. 

"He's selling more records than anyone in the world, but none of us have ever heard of him," one of them commented. "Country singers always seem to be weeping over the dead dog and things," the host continued. "I thought you'd come in here and twiddle your pistol around." Brooks politely pointed out that she didn't seem all that familiar with country music, and afterward, a number of Brooks' British fans complained to the station about the rude treatment he was afforded.

Kiss My What? 

Brooks became the only country artist to take part in a 1994 Kiss tribute album called Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved. It seemed the band was one of his favorite groups while growing up, a revelation that apparently impressed the band so much that it agreed to accompany him on his cover of "Hard Luck Woman." It was even more surprising when the song actually made its way up the country charts.

Papa Loved Mama

Brooks' good-guy image was tweaked when it was reported that during the '90s, Brooks was actually carrying on an extramarital affair with his sometime-musical partner Trisha Yearwood. Following Brooks' divorce, the couple became an official item.

Everybody Hates Chris 

One of the strangest moves Brooks ever undertook was his adoption of an alter ego he dubbed Chris Gaines. 

While there was never any doubt that the two were one and the same, Gaines became his vehicle to seize on a more rock-oriented approach and veer away from country stereotypes. 

An album, Garth Brooks in... The Life of Chris Gaines, was released in October 1999, and originally was intended as a promotional vehicle for a film he hoped to star in about a fictitious pop singer. The movie never came to fruition, but a VH1 mockumentary did. Gaines also appeared as the special musical guest on Saturday Night Live, an episode hosted by Brooks himself. Still, the entire Gaines episode turned into a spectacular misstep, even though the single it spawned, "Lost in You," actually became Gaines' first and only Top 40 entry.

Same Old Story

A year later, Brooks announced his retirement due to a desire to spend more time with his family, even going so far as to suggest that he wouldn't perform or record again until his youngest daughter, Allie, turned 18. That would have kept him out of circulation until approximately 2015. 

Still, he entered into a marketing deal with Walmart that allowed the retailer to exclusively offer his older recordings. And like others before him who have stated their intention to quit their careers only to suddenly think twice and stage a sudden comeback (Cher and David Bowie come immediately to mind), Brooks announced an end to his retirement in October 2009 and began a series of weekend shows in Las Vegas. 

Rumor had it that hotelier Steve Wynn furnished him with a private jet to transport him between his main home in Oklahoma and his weekend gig in Vegas so as to allow him to spend time with his family as he originally wished.

You Know My Name; Now Give Me My Money

Brooks made headlines earlier this year with a nasty bit of haggling that arose in the wake of a half-million-dollar contribution he made to the Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital in Yukon, Oklahoma. Brooks claimed the contribution was contingent on the hospital naming a new women's health center after his mother, Colleen, who died of cancer in 1999. 

When the hospital later decided it wouldn't build the new facility after all, it kept the contribution, insisting the agreement was nonbinding. On January 24, an Oklahoma state court jury returned a verdict in Brooks' favor and ordered the hospital to return the original donation along with an additional $500,000 in punitive damages.

Awkward or not, we wish you a happy birthday, Garth! 

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Lee Zimmerman

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