Is Garth Brooks greatest performer after Elvis? A look at country star career before release of 16th album 'Fun'
Brooks' own career in country music has been defined by the incorporation of pop and rock music which has been, on multiple occasions, compared to Elvis' sound
Garth Brooks and Elvis Presley have been compared numerous times over the years; especially because of how popular both these artistes have been in the US. Dubbed the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "The King", Elvis has been a cultural icon while alive and has remained so even after his death. The 'Heartbreak Hotel' singer, who passed away at the age of 42 in 1977, has inspired a generation of musicians, and even Brooks, on numerous occasions, has spoken about how great and influential Elvis has been on his own career. Brooks' own career in country music has been defined by the incorporation of pop and rock music which has been, on multiple occasions, compared to Elvis' sound. So, is Brooks the greatest American performer since Elvis? Let's try and answer this question.
Elvis and Garth: Career overview
One thing that no one can deny is, both Elvis and Brooks have had a unique hold over their audiences. Elvis, needless to say, whipped frenzy like few other artistes ever have. The Beatles come close, some would argue even surpass his popularity, but the cultural impact of Elvis remains to be matched. He was not only a sex icon but also opened the gates for many musicians and artists to express their individuality. Like John Lennon said, "Nothing really affected me until Elvis," while Bob Dylan described the sensation of first hearing Presley as "like busting out of jail". Elvis is also one of the most impersonated personalities ever.
Brooks, on the other hand, hasn't really had such a cultural impact, but his fans love him to no avail. The country music star has a fanbase that is forever loyal and loves Brooks and his music. While many musicians who debuted back in the 80s faded away or took a break or stopped being relevant, Brooks has maintained his popularity selling millions of tickets and records year after year. In 2017, during a concert in Louisiana, an 89-year-old audience member was holding up a sign saying that Elvis was the last concert she had seen. Brooks proceeded to find her in the crowd and asked her, "Hi...how are you? Was Elvis good?" He then belted out his classic track 'If Tomorrow Never Comes' as friends and family around the woman started to tear up.
Brooks' popularity really starts to show when you look at the number of records he has sold in the US alone. In 2015, his ninth studio album, 'Man Against Machine', made him top the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) list of the best-selling solo album artiste of all-time. He surpassed Elvis Presley for this title with his total tally being 135 million. Elvis' figure back the was 134.5 million units. Fans of Elvis pointed out that the tally did not take into account the millions of singles he sold that were never officially certified by the RIAA. Also, the first platinum certifications for albums were not issued until 1976 and Elvis received his first platinum album certification (for 'Moody Blue') in September 1977, a month after his death.
Six of Brooks' albums (excluding compilations) – 'Sevens', 'No Fences', 'The Hits', 'Garth Brooks', 'Ropin’ the Wind' and the two-record set 'Double Live' – have all registered sales in excess of 10 million units each, while only one of Elvis', 'Elvis' Christmas Album', has been certified for sales of more than 10 million units. To date, Elvis has earned a total of 90 gold, 52 platinum, and 25 multi-platinum certifications, while Brooks has managed a total of 21 gold and platinum and 15 multi-platinum album certifications.