WASHINGTON, D.C. – Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden announced today that Oklahoman Garth Brooks will receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, making him the youngest recipient of the esteemed award.
“Garth Brooks’ appeal as a performer, songwriter and humanitarian has brought many new fans into the world of country music,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “During his career, Brooks has set countless records, earned numerous awards and elevated country music into a national anthem of the American people.”
According to the The Library of Congress website, the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honors living musical artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations of musicians.
Brooks is one of the major changemakers in the history of country music. His music weaves the beauty of poetry, the universality of the human experience and the inclusiveness of other musical genres, making him one of the most influential performers in country music today. He has combined the sound of traditional country music with the performance style of arena rock legends of the 1970s, creating a unique artistic vision.
The announcement cites Brooks’ first number-one single If Tomorrow Never Comes as an exemplification of his work with vulnerability and connection. It also mentions his award-winning song We Shall Be Free to show his impact on changing the traditional country music topics. (We Shall Be Free won the GLADD Media Award in 1993 for addressing homophobia, homelessness, and racism.)
“An award is only as good as the names on it,” said Brooks. “First off, for any musician, the name Gershwin says it all. Add to Ira’s and George’s names the names of the past recipients, and you have an award of the highest honor. I am truly humbled.”
Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, and Emilio and Gloria Estefan.
Brooks will receive the prize at an all-star tribute concert in Washington, D.C., in March 2020.