There are few musicians who can claim to stand on equal terms with Garth Brooks. The best-selling American solo artist of all time has built quite a career for himself through hard work and more than a little luck, and now he’s telling his story in the latest Biography documentary, Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On.
It’s an epic tale from Oklahoma to Tennessee, from a happy childhood to a difficult youth to finding fame as one of country music’s biggest stars.
1. Quick review
A&E’s two-night biography event Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On, dives head first into the complicated psyche of the best-selling solo artist in U.S. history. The commentary in the documentary was done by musical friends James Taylor, Billy Joel, and Keith Urban.
It includes in-depth interviews with Brooks, his three daughters, ex-wife Sandy Mahl, and wife Trisha Yearwood. The two-part special explores Brooks’ childhood, his rise to fame, and the personal struggles. Those that would accompany him on his journey to becoming the most famous country artist of the Nineties worldwide.
A group pep talk Brooks gives, serves as the key opening segment of the two-part A&E Biography. The documentary delves deep into the personal life and career of the kid from Oklahoma who went on to become country’s signature superstar. It is a chronological journey.
The documentary starts with Brooks’ upbringing in Oklahoma, his fiery baptism playing college bars and his initial trip to Nashville to pursue his musical dream. Family photos and concert footage help round out the biography.
This takes viewers through Brooks’ runaway popularity in the 90s, his divorce from wife Sandy, self-imposed retirement, and eventual comeback, right up to the present day.
2. Is it worth watching?
Brooks is clearly the proper subject for an in-depth documentary, and not simply for his superstardom. The A&E series is as compelling as the artist himself because it allows Brooks to tell his own saga. For the first time, Brooks discusses his life story at length.
This gives viewers an insight into his parents, the relationships with his three daughters, the tough music business lessons he had to figure out, and a myriad of other subjects.
In all honesty, The Road I’m On feels more like a conversation than a documentary. This really works in its favor. It helps that Brooks has had a pretty eventful life.
From his first love to his first disappointments to his first big break, it hasn’t been an easy road for country music’s favorite son. Brooks recounts the story of his life with a very down-to-earth attitude and all the sincerity he can muster.
As most documentaries do, director Glenn Weiss balances the interviews and shows footage with plenty of “I didn’t know that” moments. For instance, we get a glimpse of Brooks’ childhood life, which was quite chaotic.
As the youngest of six in a blended family, Brooks describes home life as “A hundred-and-twenty miles an hour, twenty-four hours a day.” He also adds that his father “never had a second by himself.”
In the past, Brooks often spoke of his mother, who was a budding musical talent in her own right. However, he seldom spoke of his dad. In this documentary, Brooks goes on at some length about his father’s influence and the life lessons he passed along.
Two of Garth’s brothers recall how talented Garth was, even at a young age. When he went to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, he often played the dive bars in town and started to attract buzz.
He continued to do that after he got his degree. For extra context, Brooks’ daughters speak candidly about their dad. They reminisce about how he would occasionally ground them or even take away their cell phones. Some of Brooks’ siblings and childhood friends also share on-camera remembrances.
II. Music and Visuals
If you’re a fan of Brooks’ music, this right here is the holy grail. If you’re just a casual listener, this might just get you listening to a whole lot more. The documentary is peppered with his music and many anecdotes from his strictly personal life so far.
We hear rare snippets of Brooks in his club days. He covers James Taylor’s iconic Steamroller Blues and gives Elton John’s Rocket Man a credible country rendering. Clips of Brooks’ monumental concert in New York’s Central Park, 1997, reverberate with excitement and nostalgia. You can feel the thrills as Brooks takes his tour overseas to screaming fans in Dublin, 1994.
Everyone wants something a little different from documentaries. Some prefer more music, and some prefer more life. Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On gives a good mix of both, although at times the reality of who Brooks is may feel fake to some. The documentary has a better than average IMDb audience rating of 7.1. It has also been part of A&E Network’s Emmy Award-winning’ Biography’ franchise.
3. Final Thoughts
One thing that Brooks has always been, despite his success, is human. Humble? Somewhat. Confident? Absolutely. He shows all of that in this documentary, including a couple of vulnerable moments.
Like when he couldn’t talk about his father’s response to Brooks’ quick return from Nashville, after his first performance. Though not in an overt way, the A&E series leaves us with a further impression of Brooks that perhaps had never been considered before.
Flashing back to that opening pep talk to his team, it is obvious that Brooks could have been an outstanding football coach or a successful sales manager. Yet, there is an everyman quality to him. As the documentary deftly demonstrates, Brooks is unmatched in knowing how to communicate with his audience and hold them spellbound.