Garth Brooks Thinks He Might Be the ‘Weak Link’ of His Class of Kennedy Center Honorees
As he reflected on his position as one of the five 2020 Kennedy Center Honorees, Garth Brooks spoke about his reverence for the other four members of his incoming class, in a new interview filmed around the May 2021 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
In fact, among his fellow nominees — singer-songwriter Joan Baez, comic actor Dick Van Dyke, dancer, artist and choreographer Debbie Allen and violinist Midori — Brooks feels he's the "weak link."
"The time they allow the five honorees with each other, you walk out of here going, 'Damn. I could quite possibly be the weak link in this chain. And I am fine with that,'" the country icon relates with a chuckle. "These are some amazing, amazing, amazing performers. And to think this is one of 43 years? That's a pretty hellacious list to belong to."
As a fan of music and the arts, Brooks says, one of his favorite parts of the event was getting to be an audience member, especially after over a year of COVID-19 shutdowns. He enjoyed the portion of the show dedicated to celebrating his own career, of course ("I have never, ever gotten to be in the crowd for 'Friends in Low Places.' Ever," he notes with a giggle) but even more, he was thrilled to be a fan for the parts of the show celebrating his fellow honorees, especially Midori.
"There's something about her discipline and her character, her focus, that makes me wanna be not only a better Garth, but a better human being," the singer explains. "I mean, she's amazing."
As much as the ceremony was a celebration of its honorees achievements, it was also a celebration of their artistic contemporaries, predecessors, heroes and mentees — a fact that was underscored for Brooks by the fact that musicians like James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson performed in his honor.
"The truth is, we all become who we are from somebody else. I became this guy for James Taylor," Brooks notes. "I wanted to sing country music because I saw George Strait. And now I wanna help people because I saw Medori. So this is what we do for each other, and that's what the arts do. The arts shine the light on the people that become the torches that we follow, and become ourselves."
Taylor, who was on hand during the ceremony, says that he counts Brooks as a friend, and that the two artists had long ago become mutual admirers of each other's work. "So when I got the call that Garth was being honored [at the Kennedy Center Honors], I signed up," he explains.
"Garth's music has an emotional freight, particularly in front of an audience, the connection is really strong. He's not ten yards back from the front of his face, putting you through three or four different filters," Taylor adds. "He's right there. He's on the surface of himself. What I mean is, he's available. His enthusiasm is infectious."
Musical legend Gladys Knight, who also tributed Brooks during the ceremony, also chimed in in praise of the powerful lyrical foundation of his music and of country music as a genre. "He writes life. He's not trying to impress people with the lyric, but he can help people with the lyric. The way he writes is so clean and pure and to the point," she says.
Clarkson performed Brooks' hit "The Dance" during the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, and she also points to that song as an example of Brooks' music can evolve and change with the listener over time.
"It's just [about] how a song can impact you as a child, and you love it, and it's so beautiful, but then it has a whole other life — for the same child that grew up as an adult — it has a whole other meaning," she relates, noting that "The Dance" was a such a song for her. "That's the sign of an amazing song and an amazing storyteller. And that he is."
The 2020 Kennedy Center Honors event aired on CBS on Sunday night (June 6). Flip through the gallery below to check out more big moments from the event, which also featured Sturgill Simpson and Emmylou Harris honoring Baez.
PICS: Garth Brooks Received Kennedy Center Honors
How He's Changed! Garth Brooks' Storied Career in Pictures: