See Garth Brooks Get Political With 'We Shall Be Free' Video - Rolling Stone
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See Garth Brooks Get Political With Unearthed ‘We Shall Be Free’ Video

Al Gore, Colin Powell and Michael J. Fox appear in 1992 clip that was updated in 2002 but never aired

Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks has returned to one of his most talked-about, yet commercially least successful singles, introducing a previously unseen music video for “We Shall Be Free” to commemorate the song’s 25th anniversary. In a Facebook chat Monday, simulcast on SiriusXM as part of the superstar entertainer’s “Inside Studio G” video series, Brooks unveiled the updated video, which, like the original, featured numerous celebrity cameos when it was first filmed in 1992. New, topical material was added to the clip to mark its 10th anniversary in 2002, including footage from 9/11 news coverage. Legal issues with music publishing, however, had prevented its release until now. (Watch the music video above and see Brooks discuss the song below.)

In September 1992, when Brooks released his fourth LP, The Chase, it was his second album to debut atop the multi-genre Billboard 200. With an unbroken streak of 13 Top 10 country hits, nine of which were Number Ones, the powerful – and controversial – “We Shall Be Free” was released as the album’s first single. Written with frequent collaborator Stephanie Davis (“Learning to Live Again,” “The Gift,” “Wolves”), “We Shall Be Free” was distinguished by its message of acceptance and inclusiveness, which proved a hard sell with skittish radio programmers. In particular, the line “When we’re free to love anyone we choose” proved problematic at a time when homosexuality was still inexorably linked to the AIDS crisis.

The song, and its accompanying video, which addressed hunger, homelessness, religious freedom and environmental issues, also tackled the hot-button topic of racism, with Brooks noting that the Los Angeles riots in April 1992 had first inspired the song’s creation. He and his band were leaving L.A. after the ACM Awards and watched as buildings burned throughout the city. “It was pretty scary for all of us, especially a bunch of guys from Oklahoma,” Brooks said in a 1996 radio special.

The updated version of the video also includes several of the cameos featured in the original, from a young Dakota Fanning to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as some newly added to the clip, including Brooks’ wife, singer Trisha Yearwood.

Although “We Shall Be Free” had limited airplay, one year after he was inspired to write it, Brooks, who co-directed the original video with Timothy Miller, won the ACM Award for Music Video of the Year. 

In This Article: Garth Brooks


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