This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #319: The Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks.
Next to The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis, Garth Brooks is the biggest selling music artist of all-time. He has sold over 200 million albums, which has resulted in his albums being certified 157 times Platinum!!!! He is known for his showmanship on stage, the ability to capture the moods of ordinary people in his songs and in his playful yet, strong singing voice. Garth Brooks is often credited with being one of the main people who helped Country Music transition from its “Tears in my Beer” roots, to a style of music that is more modern and rock/Pop-oriented, all the while retaining all of the original roots of Country and Western music. He is winner of the most Country Music Association Awards in history. He has had more #1 hits than any other Country artist in History. He has already been inducted in every music Hall of Fame he is eligible for. And, it all started with a debut album for the ages, called, “No Fences”.
Like many aspiring singers, Garth Brooks began his career making demo tapes and submitting them to any record label that would listen. He held odd jobs to pay his bills, while he played in small bars. It was while he was struggling to break into the music industry that one of the secrets to his success came to the fore. He worked tirelessly on his craft. He spent all of his free time writing songs, playing for anyone who would listen, as well as, getting to know session players, other songwriters and musicians in Nashville. As tends to happen, Garth Brooks began to create a network of friends and associates in the industry and, eventually, after much effort, his hard work began to pay off in two distinct ways. First of all, two of his songwriting buddies, Earl Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell, asked Brooks to sing on a demo they wished to shop. The song on the demo was called, “Friends in Low Places”. That demo was the last demo tape Brooks ever had to make. *(We will see that song later in our countdown).
The second break that he received was from fellow Country star, Tanya Tucker. At this point in his career, Brooks was just as willing to sell songs to other singers, as he was to write songs for himself. So, he wrote a song about infidelity called, “The Thunder Rolls” and pitched it to Tucker. She was in the process of making a Greatest Hits album and wasn’t actively seeking new songs at the moment but, she liked it and put a “hold” on it, meaning that she didn’t want to use it at the moment but was reserving the right to use it later and didnt want any other artist to have access to it. These sort of deals are quite common, apparently. In any case, as Garth Brooks began getting more and more well-known in Music circles, he was, eventually, offered a contract and tasked with putting together enough songs for an album. He circled back to Tucker and asked if he could have his song back and, luckily for Country fans everywhere, she agreed. *(She ended up using a slightly different version of the song on her next album of original material but, long after it became the big hit that it did for Brooks).
“No Fences” became Garth Brooks debut album. It was titled that because, right from the start, he had a vision for how he wanted Country music to change and evolve. For his part, he wanted no pre-conceived boundaries or limitations to hold him back so, he announced his arrival on the scene with “No Fences”. This album went on to become the highest selling debut album of all-time with over 18 million in sales alone, fuelled, in part, by the tandem hits of “Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls”.
The song, “The Thunder Rolls” is about an unfaithful husband and a wife who knows, all too well, that he has strayed. In the original version of his song, the story ends with the wife detecting the smell of another woman’s perfume on her husband and the line, “He knows that she knows.” However, there were many people who felt that the song, in its original form, was unfinished. They wanted to know what the wife did about her husband’s unfaithfulness. So, a fourth verse was added in which the wife sought a gun. When the song was released in video form, it was banned by CMT (Country Music Television) because of the violence inferred in the song. CMT said that they would only air the video if Brooks made a personal disclaimer, disassociating himself with violence). Brooks refused to do so. He is on record as saying that “The Thunder Rolls” is, actually, an anti-domestic violence song and that it is pro-female in its implications. Like many types of bans, the controversy surrounding the video only whetted the appetites of those desperate to see it. Eventually, the video aired on other channels, folks got to watch it and make their own judgements and the ban was soon lifted.
Regardless of the drama over the video for “The Thunder Rolls”, Garth Brooks remains one of the most popular music artists in any genre. While his heyday was in the 1990s, he has continued releasing new materials to this day (between bouts of retirement that he is, obviously, not yet ready for). Garth Brooks is married to fellow artist, Trisha Yearwood. He was asked to perform at the inauguration of current US President, Joe Biden, in Washington in 2021. From “No Fences” to Joe Biden’s inauguration, Garth Brooks has enjoyed one of the most successful music careers ever! Without further delay, here is “The Thunder Rolls” by the King of Country Music, himself, Mr. Garth Brooks! Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “The Thunder Rolls” by Garth Brooks, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Garth Brooks, can be found here.