Garth Brooks has been spending a lot of time with old friends over the past few years.

We’re talking about the songs that first catapulted him to stardom in the early ’90s. Those classic hits, like “The Thunder Rolls” and “Shameless,” form the backbone of the set list he’s been playing for the last three years on his just-wrapped World Tour. He’s also written in-depth about them in his new book and CD release, “The Anthology: Part 1, The First Five Years.”

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Since Garth has been reflecting on his catalog, we asked him which songs from those first five years have gotten the biggest new lease on life as he’s performed it for today’s concert crowds.

He tells Rare Country, “The one that surprised me, throw in all five records would be ‘Rodeo.’ A song I never thought would be a single. It turned out to be the first single [from ‘Ropin’ the Wind’], and I’ve got to tell you, every night it just got stronger and stronger. It blows me away. ‘That Summer,’ right now, is doing better than it ever did when it was first released.”

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Another track from Garth’s 1992 album, “The Chase,” has taken on a new meaning for Garth and his fans in the midst of America’s current political divide.

Garth explains, “One song that you look around and go, ‘Wow, that song should have been written today,’ is ‘We Shall Be Free.’ I’m stunned how every syllable of that thing is particular to today. So, pretty cool to get to see your music grow like that.”

In “The Anthology,” Garth details writing “We Shall Be Free” with his co-writer, Stephanie Davis, after being in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots. The city was in flames, and it inspired Garth to write and record the song calling for unity and freedom among all people. The book also details Garth’s determination to include the line, “When we’re free to love anyone we choose,” which was met with a lot of resistance in 1992 for its affirmation of same-sex relationships.

The song didn’t make the top 10 on the country radio charts, but it did have a big impact thanks to the music video premiering as part of the 1993 Super Bowl broadcast. The song also paved the way for Luke Bryan’s new single, “Most People Are Good,” which includes a similar line, “I believe you love who you love/Ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of.” So far, Luke hasn’t received any pushback for that line, and you’ve got to give some of the credit to “We Shall Be Free” helping break down that barrier.

Garth’s “The Anthology” includes most of the songs from his first five albums on CD, along with never-before-heard songs and demos from that time period. Garth’s collection is one of the few re-issue sets that isn’t available on vinyl, though. We asked Garth why he hasn’t taken advantage of the resurgence in vinyl albums yet as he re-releases songs from his back catalog.

He tells us, “Here’s the problem — trying to find a company that can make enough vinyl. It’s tough. We had an opportunity to do a ton of vinyl, and couldn’t find, in all the companies combined, it would have taken them 10 months to get it done. Hopefully, we’ll go to work on that, because vinyl is not going anywhere. I think we’re showing that. So, hopefully the production of that will pick up.”

Garth’s “The Anthology: Part 1, The First Five Years,” is available now. Garth just wrapped the North American leg of his World Tour, but he has shows coming up at the Houston Rodeo and Stagecoach Country Music Festival in California in the coming months. Go to for a full rundown of dates.

Garth Brooks tells us which one of his past hits shined the brightest on his World Tour Instagram/@garthbrooks
Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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