Why Won’t Garth Brooks Reveal Who Wrote ‘We Belong to Each Other’?
There is a story to be told about Garth Brooks' new song "We Belong To Each Other," an anthem released weeks after the death of George Floyd, a black man, while he was being detained by four white Minneapolis police officers. The song's writer is still officially unknown, and a little research reveals potentially why.
During Inside Studio G on Monday (June 15), Brooks' wife Trisha Yearwood tried to get him to talk about who wrote the song, but he declined, smiling as he said he wanted to keep the focus on the unifying message. Their grins insinuated that Brooks (or perhaps Yearwood, in a rare moment of self-pride) wrote the song, or that some other well-known singer-songwriter penned it for the country legend. Here's the exchange:
Brooks: Everyone has been saying, "Hey man, are you gonna say anything?" ... For me, if I'm going to say anything, my music. It always has been, forever. "We Shall Be Free" —
Yearwood: Can we give some props to the writer?
Brooks: You know what, I think I'm gonna let people just hopefully enjoy the lyric first and then the writer will come out, because I don't want people to feel either way.
"We Shall Be Free" was a songwriter collaboration between Brooks and Stephanie Davis. The 1992 song was inspired by protests and unrest following the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers charged with using excessive force in detaining Rodney King. Brooks had a front-row seat to the fallout, as that year's ACM Awards took place in LA on the same day as the acquittal.
Like with George Floyd's arrest, the brutality was caught on film, and those images sparked outrage nationwide. The weeks that followed both incidents are similar in scope and power. Of course, what separates them at this point is the outcome of the four officers charged in the May 25 death of Floyd, who was suspected of passing a fake $20 bill. We don't know how the jury will rule, and won't for quite a while.
"When the last thing we notice is the color of the skin / And the first thing we look for is the beauty within / When the skies and the oceans are clean again / Then we shall be free," Brooks sings during "We Shall Be Free," a he calls his most controversial ever.
"We Belong To Each Other" begins with the lines "Ain’t no wall can divide us / No matter how high / Ain’t no storm can untie us / For all it may try / We’re all leaves on the same tree / Under one sky / Don’t let nobody tell you, otherwise." The message is similar but unique to the era it was released. "We belong to each other / We are sister and brother / Born to love one another," he sings during a simple chorus.
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A deep dive into the BMI repertoire shows 12 songs called "We Belong to Each Other," none attributed to Brooks. However, the final entry is notable and looks to have been logged fairly recently. Stephanie A. Davis, the writer of "We Shall Be Free" and several other Brooks' album cuts ("Wolves," "Learning to Live Again," "The Night Will Only Know" are three) has written a song called "We Belong to Each Other." While not confirmed (The Boot's sister site, Taste of Country, reached out to multiple reps for both Davis and Brooks), it's possible that in looking for the right words, the Hall of Famer reached out to a woman who helped him before.
"We are ancient stars / Turned flesh and bone / We’re all travelers on a bus ride home / Yeah, we laugh and we cry / We rise and we fall / Yeah, we fuss and we fight, but through it all," Brooks sings.
One theory on why (if accurate) Brooks would keep Davis' songwriting credit a secret is that the controversy around "We Shall Be Free" (mostly because of its message of tolerance toward the LGBTQ+ community) still lingers, and could hold the song back. Another is that if people think it's Part II of "We Shall Be Free," the message will get diverted.
That's not going to happen. His aim is true and execution sincere.
"The last thing we need to do right now is divide," Brooks said during his weekly Facebook Live chat. "People, trust me. If you’re ever gonna see me pissed off about anything, don’t divide. Don’t let ‘em divide us. That's when it falls apart."
Whether or not "We Belong to Each Other" becomes a single or makes Brooks' upcoming Fun album remains to be seen. It deserves more than to live on Robin Roberts' Facebook page, however. The full story of the song needs to be told.
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