Garth Brooks made history on Sept. 28, 1991, when his third album, Ropin’ the Wind, debuted atop the Billboard 200. The record became the first country title to bow at No. 1 and dethroned Metallica’s then-5-week-old eponymous album. (No small achievement: The latter recording went on to become the best-selling record — 16 million units — in the United States since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in May 1991.)
After moving 300,000 in its first week, Ropin’ the Wind has sold 9.6 million to date and ranks as the best-selling country album by a male artist. Most remarkably, Brooks, then 29, achieved these milestones without the benefit of crossover airplay. Rather, it was his electric live concerts and a string of modern country classics from his first two albums, Garth Brooks and No Fences, that helped rocket his third album to No. 1, and propelled country radio to new ratings highs in the early 1990s.
Ropin’ the Wind became the first of nine No. 1 albums that Brooks would land on the Billboard 200. The 52-year-old artist will have a shot at making it an even 10 on Nov. 11 when he releases his first proper studio album since 2001 (that was when Brooks retired until his youngest of three daughters graduated high school). The release can only burnish his legacy: With 69.6 million albums sold in the United States since 1991, he’s the best-selling artist of the SoundScan era, ahead of runners-up The Beatles, with 66 million.