Garth Brooks will perform at Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, joining Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga among the entertainers on the bill.
“In our household, this is not a political statement, this is a statement of unity,” Brooks said in a virtual press conference.
Brooks performed at a Lincoln Memorial inaugural concert in 2009, and told reporters that he was asked to perform for Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017 but had a prescheduled tour date.
Brooks, a Republican, said that incoming First Lady Jill Biden asked him over the weekend to perform.
He did not say what music selection he would be singing, but said that it would probably not be We Shall Be Free because he sang it at the Obama event in 2009. He said that he would not be speaking at the swearing in ceremony, but his press call was an opportunity for him to explain why he agreed to the gig.
The selection of Brooks signaled a desire among Biden’s inauguration team to feature a performer with a substantial fan base across the partisan divide. To reporters, Brooks stressed the desire for unity amid deep distrust in politics, saying, “I’m so tired of being divided.”
“There’s a common theme in every presidential election,” Brooks said. “New beginnings. New starts. We’re all together in this one, but truly I think the word unity, the word love, the word that we belong to each other. … We can’t just take extreme left and extreme right, because there’s a silent majority in the middle. It’s going to dwarf both of those.”
Brooks will be performing on the same stage that, just two weeks earlier, was the scene of a riot among pro-Trump demonstrators who, convinced that the election was stolen from him, stormed the Capitol. Five people were killed.
“It was disturbing. It was sad. Try to remember that we are the human race, so I’m always going to find sunny sides in there. …The fact that we do make choices very much on the spur of the moment. I deal in music. I deal in raw emotion. That is what music is all about, and all that passion, guided, misguided as it is, I think that you saw the human race at a time that, for me as a person, seemed to reflect some other country’s deadline, if that makes any sense. But it’s here, and all I can do is beg and plead for everybody to take that second, that moment, take a breath and think about it. Think about your family. Think about what the mark you’re going to leave on this planet as a human being, and with the children that you raise, and then make your decision.”
“So I think what happened was we saw people in the heat of the moment, and we’ve seen it on television before, but I’m with you. I felt like it was in some other country, but it was here. And now we deal with it, take responsibility, we claim it, and now we do our best to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”
Brooks will be performing for a vastly scaled back in-person audience than there was for the Obama 2009 inaugural events. But he called the opportunity to perform an “honor.” He’ll be seen by a viewership stretching across TV networks and online platforms.
“I might be the only Republican at this place, but it’s about reaching across and loving one another,” he said.
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