“We launched the Diamond Award in 1999 to recognize ten million United States sales,” stated Kennedy, who is the Director of Communications and Gold & Platinum Program for the RIAA. “To date, there have only been around 120 albums that have achieved Diamond status. For Garth to become the first person to have seven is a great moment for everyone to celebrate. He deserves to take pride in the moment, and we’re happy to be here tonight.”
Brooks celebrated the feat by playing to a special crowd at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater in tandem with the State of Tennessee’s “The Soundtrack of America Made in Tennessee” initiative, as each of his albums were recorded in the Volunteer State. Many of the singer’s friends were on tap to help him mark the occasion, such as fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Reba McEntire, who turned in a very traditional take on his 1990 hit “Not Counting You.” Wife Trisha Yearwood also was on hand, performing their duet “In Another’s Eyes,” while also delivering a beautiful version of her 1992 hit “Walkaway Joe,” by request from her spouse.
Many of the artists gave testimonials about how Brooks had influenced their careers. Jason Aldean told Brooks that he had a poster of him on his bedroom wall growing up, before pairing with the singer for “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” the singer’s very first Billboard chart release. Chris Young -- announced as a guest earlier in the day -- performed with his hero on “The River,” a huge hit from his Ropin’ The Wind album -- his first to top the Billboard 200 in the fall of 1991.
Brooks was taking it in all night long, as Kelly Clarkson delivered a riveting version of “We Shall Be Free.” Clarkson’s child-like enthusiasm was infectious, as she seemed to be enjoying the evening as much as the singer himself. When Steve Wariner departed the stage after performing “Longneck Bottle,” which he co-wrote for the singer’s Sevens album in 1997, Brooks quickly brought him back upon Clarkson’s request that he perform “The Weekend.” Wariner fulfilled the request of the powerhouse vocalist, who added her distinctive harmonies during the song.
After the guests had left the stage, it was down to just Brooks -- and a few thousand of his fans -- who sang along with standards such as “The Dance,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” and the song that put his career on the fast track -- 1990’s “Friends In Low Places.” He performed the infamous live version – where he changes the lyrics around slightly -- to the delight of the audience, who went away into the night greeted by one of the biggest displays of fireworks that Nashville has ever seen... at least in October.
In addition to the guests previously mentioned, Randy Travis was sitting in the audience, and Brooks was celebrated by a representative from Jack Daniel's Whiskey, who presented him with a (empty) commemorative barrel of the distillery’s famous Old No. 7 brand.
One more guest of the evening was Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who presented the singer with a belt buckle with seven diamonds marking each of the albums. Before the event, Haslam said that Brooks is a great representative of the state’s rich musical legacy.
“We take the music business fairly seriously around here, and we’re really grateful to Garth and his team. When this idea first came up, we were talking about a way we could market, and maybe do Snapchat and different ideas. Someone asked ‘What if we could get an artist to help us?’ (Commissioner of Tourist Development) Kevin Triplett said ‘It would have to be someone very big.’ They said they had somebody that might work. That led us to here, and having the top-selling solo artist of all time here, that we get to enjoy tonight.”
Garth Brooks’ Diamond Awards:
Double Live (21x Platinum)
No Fences (17x Platinum)
Ropin’ The Wind (14x Platinum)
Garth Brooks (10x Platinum)
The Hits (10x Platinum)
Sevens (10x Platinum)
The Ultimate Hits (10x Platinum)