10 Most Defiant Garth Brooks Lyrics – Rolling Stone
Home Music Country Music Lists

Man Against Machine: Garth Brooks’ 10 Most Defiant Lyrics

From standing outside fires to finding friends in low places, the country superstar has taken plenty of musical stances

Garth Brooks lyrics

Garth Brooks performs in Washington, D.C.

Jewel Samad/AFP

"This is where I make my stand, 'cause I can't stand it anymore," Garth Brooks sings in the title track to his brand-new LP, Man Against Machine. It marks the first time in his quarter century-long career that the biggest-selling country artist of all time has titled an album after a song. He did so to not only reflect the project's overall theme, but also to share his mindset on the music industry after an almost 14 year career break.

"A lot of things have changed and it's all up hill," Brooks said at a recent album preview party in Nashville. "I'm not saying an album can make a difference, but I think music can."

And with his music, the Oklahoma native has always worn his impassioned heart on his sleeve. In the spirit of Brooks' "Machine," we count down his 10 most audacious song lyrics, from the deliciously defiant to those that inspire social change.

Garth Brooks lyrics

Garth Brooks performs in 1995


“The Change,” 1995

"But it's not the world that I am changing/What I do is so this world will know that it will not change me"
Co-written by Tony Arata ("The Dance") and Wayne Tester, this song takes a gentler approach to defiance but that just helps make the message louder and clearer: one person can be all the difference the world needs. In fact, the theme of this 1995 tune has carried through Brooks' 2014 career comeback: Not letting the world's changing circumstances change you is one way to defy all the odds.

Garth Brooks lyrics

ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Garth Brooks performs on stage at Allstate Arena on September 5, 2014 in Rosemont, United States. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)

“Standing Outside the Fire,” 1993

"There's this love that is burning deep in my soul/Constantly yearning to get out of control"
A theme song for the lonely outcast if ever there was one, this inspirational smash, which Brooks wrote with Jenny Yates, shared a message about perseverance that was made even stronger and more poignant through a memorable music video, in which a high school student with Down syndrome runs track, refusing to give up even after a fall. Subtle? Not a bit, but powerful nonetheless.

Garth Brooks lyrics

Garth Brooks performs in Chicago in 1993.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

“The Night I Called the Old Man Out,” 1993

"Fist to fist and eye to eye, standin' toe to toe/He would've let me walk away/But I just would not let it go."
It's rather appropriate that this tune comes from Brooks' In Pieces album, since more than one of the characters in the song about a father and his strong-willed sons was knocked down, but not necessarily out, by "the old man." But the lesson (and the bloodied nose) at the heart of the song made the defiant stance worth it.

Garth Brooks lyrics

Garth Brooks performs on 'The Tonight Show' on May 11, 1995

“The Old Stuff,” 1995

"Balls out no doubt this is what it's all about/Beggin' for a place to play"
Brooks wrote this with Bryan Kennedy and Dan Roberts, capturing the nomadic spirit of what it's like to load up a rented van with instruments and travel from gig to gig with your band mates. It may not be everyone's idea of glamorous, but even when it's less than ideal, it can still be pretty great.

Garth Brooks lyrics

ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Garth Brooks performs on stage at Allstate Arena on September 5, 2014 in Rosemont, United States. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)

“Against the Grain,” 1991

"Folks call me a maverick/Guess I ain't too diplomatic/I just never been the kind to go along"
Penned by Bruce Bouton, Larry Cordle and Carl Jackson, this hard-charging track opened Brooks' second album, the career-changing, history-making Ropin' the Wind. The tune namechecks trailblazers from Christopher Columbus to John Wayne, as its narrator hopes to "buck the system" as they did. One of his earliest songs, "Against the Grain" was just one of the ways in which the public was now on notice that Brooks was anything but a garden-variety country star.

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.