Magoosh English Class: Meet Garth Brooks, Country Music Legend for Decades

Welcome to the next lesson in our free English class series about Music in America! If you’re not familiar with country music, be sure to check out our previous class on Country Music in America. In this lesson, we will explore the career of country’s international sensation Garth Brooks.

Goals:

  • Explore the career of one of country music’s most famous musicians
  • Learn terms related to the world of music
  • Review geographical punctuation

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Time: Approximately 15 minutes

Garth Brooks: A Look at One of Country Music’s Biggest Stars

Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.

Garth Brooks has broken records of every genre throughout his career. At over 156 certified units sold, he is the highest-selling solo artist in US history (that’s more than Elvis!) and the first artist to ever receive eight Diamond Awards from the RIAA (that’s more than The Beatles!). His live performances and world tours have also broken attendance and sales records globally.

How did a country music artist break so many records and appeal to such a diverse audience?

How Garth Brooks Stood Out From the Crowd

Garth is an innovator who integrates rock and pop styles into traditional country melodies to create a unique brand of country music. In addition, his concerts are a spectacle that changed the face of the country music live performance. They include pyrotechnics and a high-energy performance that resembles that of a hard rock show.

However, he certainly didn’t start out playing for football stadiums filled to capacity.

Starting Small

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1962, Garth came from humble beginnings. His family had a tradition of hosting their own weekly talent shows. He learned to play the guitar and banjo for their in-home shows and eventually took that talent to the bar and club scene around Stillwater, Oklahoma. He originally played a variety of musical styles before setting his sights on country music.

Getting to the Top

An entertainment attorney from Dallas drove to Stillwater to hear him play and immediately agreed to help Brooks record a demo and send him to Nashville in search of a recording contract. Shortly thereafter, Garth released his debut self-titled album and the rest is history.

His second album, No Fences, remained at number 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart for 23 weeks and netted him four Country Music Awards that year. The album made him an international star and opened up the opportunity for multiple world tours in the coming years. He went on to release 11 more albums to date and shows no signs of slowing down.

He released his latest single Dive Bar with country music artist Blake Shelton in 2020. The single made it on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, which made Garth the first artist to do so in every decade from the 80s to the 2020s (today). Whether you’re a fan of country music or not, any music fan should be familiar with the talent and music of Garth Brooks.

Here’s Garth Brooks performing live on The Ellen Show:

Word Focus

  • Certified Units – (noun) – The RIAA certifies the number of albums or singles (units) to have been shipped, sold, or streamed by a music label.
  • The Beatles have sold 183 million certified units to date.
  • RIAA – (noun) – Stands for the Recording Industry Association of America. They are the recording industry’s trade organization. The RIAA is said to create and distribute more than 80% of the legal music in the United States.
    • The RIAA is a powerful group of music executives that certifies sales of music throughout the United States.
  • Pyrotechnics – (noun) – The craft of creating fireworks for entertainment.
    • China is the global leader in the export of pyrotechnic products.
  • Filled to capacity – (expression) – When a venue of any size is completely full.
    • The stadium had to turn people away last night as they were filled to capacity.
  • Humble beginnings – (expression) – To come from a lower class in society. Not rich or famous.
    • He rose from humble beginnings to become one of the wealthiest people in history.
  • Recording contract – (noun) – Legal contract between a record label and an artist that allows the label to sell the work of the artist.
    • The Beatles signed their first recording contract in 1961. The actual document sold at an auction years later for $75,000.
  • Self-titled album – (noun) – A album with a title having the same name as the artist.
    • Many musicians release a self-titled album at some point in their career.
  • The rest is history – (idiom) – Whatever happened next is well-known or famous.
    • A scout spotted the football player when he was a teenager, and the rest is history.
  • Country Music Awards – (noun) – The Country Music Association Awards or CMAs are held every November in Nashville and televised nationally. They’re like the Grammy Awards for country music.
    • Garth Brooks has won the CMA for Entertainer of the Year a record seven times.

    Grammar Center: 5 Rules for Geographical Punctuation

    Look at the first part of this sentence from the passage:

    Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1962, Garth came from humble beginnings…

    Notice how there are few extra commas in that sentence? As you start to write more in English, you’ll have to talk about geography at some point, and, more specifically, you may need to write about a specific city, state, country, and/or region. So, let’s review geographical punctuation.

    Rule 1: When a city and state appear together in a sentence, put a comma after both the city and the state…

    • Portland, Oregon, is one of my favorite cities in the US.

    …unless the state comes at the end of the sentence.

    • One of my favorite cities in the U.S. is Portland, Oregon.

    Rule 2: If two cities from the same state precede a state in a sentence, the second city is followed by a comma.

    • I’ve always enjoyed Austin and Houston, Texas.

    Rule 3: Use a comma to separate a county and a state (in the United States).

    • I grew up in Hardin County, Texas.

    Rule 4: Use a comma to separate a county from a country if the country doesn’t designate states.

    • The man is from Norfolk, England.

    Rule 5: Use a comma to separate a region from a country.

    • The group originated in Baja, Mexico in the 60’s.

    The rules are simple but very important to remember. You’ll need to be able to apply this information to both academic and informal writing as an advanced ESL speaker.

    Quiz

    1. Based on your understanding of the passage, which of these words best describes the music of Garth Brooks?a. Intriguingb. Loudc. Flatd. Innovative
    2. What major award show gave Garth Brooks’ four awards for his second album?a. The Grammy Awardsb. The Country Music Association Awardsc. The Academy Awardsd. The Emmy Awards
    3. The base root pyro in pyrotechnics means?a. Lightb. Firec. Skyd. Show
    4. Who validates the certification in a certified unit?a. The artistb. The sellersc. The RIAAd. The Country Music Association
    5. Which sentence shows the correct geographical punctuation?a. I’m from Houston, Texas,.b. I think Houston, Texas is a great city.c. Houston Texas, is the home of the Houston Astros.d. Have you ever been to Houston, Texas?
    6. If more than one city is named before a state, which city is followed by a comma?a. The first city namedb. The last city named
    Show Correct Answers:
    1. D
    2. B
    3. B
    4. C
    5. D
    6. B
Jake Pool

Jake Pool

After working in the restaurant industry for over a decade, Jake left to pursue his career as a writer and ESL teacher. He now creates content that informs, inspires, and educates ESL students on a wide range of topics. Jake also records audio for his articles to help students with pronunciation and comprehension.
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