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.
Brooks declined to say what he will perform at the ceremony, only saying that his mind had gone toward choices with a patriotic bent. But he did say that it would not be his anthem “We Shall Be Free.” “We were lucky enough to sing ‘We Shall Be Free’ at the Obama inauguration (in 2009), so I don’t think we’ll do that again here.” He added, “I think I’ll be performing by myself. We’ll be doing more of the broken-down, bare-bones stuff.”
Brooks emphasized that he does not take partisan stands and has performed for every president since Jimmy Carter except Ronald Reagan, although the 2009 performance for Obama was the only one that took place at an actual inaugural. “I was lucky enough to be asked to play the 2016 inauguration (of Donald J. Trump) as well. We couldn’t fulfill that one as well because we already had dates in Cincinnati,” but, he noted, he has played for Trump on other occasions.
“This is not a political statement. This is a statement of unity,” Brooks said. “I’m excited, nervous — all the good things, because this is history and it’s an honor to get to serve.”
The actual ask came in a phone call from First Lady-to-be Dr. Jill Biden, he said. “She’s very welcoming, very warming. We’ve known each other since the Obama inauguration. She’s very easy to talk to. She said, ‘It’s your decision, but we would love to have you here.’ I’m sure we’re around the same age, but she was very much like a mom. … She made a very sweet ask. We took the weekend to think about what we would sing… and made the decision (to announce) right now.”
Asked what would make this feel especially different, he said, “The main thing they’re pushing now is unity, and that’s right down my alley… I would say we’re more divided than ever, so that bridge that brings us together” is key, Brooks said. “I don’t know. I might be the only Republican at this place. But reaching out, together… I want us to offer a differing opinion and hug each other at the same football game. …I think as long as you have people like the Bidens who are hellbent on making things good,… That makes me feel good. Because I want to spend the next 10 years of my life not divided. I’m so tired of being divided.”
“You can’t just take extreme left and extreme right because there’s a silent majority in the middle that’s going to dwarf both of them,” he added.