Even Garth Brooks writes the occasional bad song, though it’s pretty unlikely any of them will ever be recorded.
He proved as much at the second annual “The First and the Worst,” a fundraiser for the Music Health Alliance that was held at Nashville’s City Winery and hosted by journalist Peter Cooper. Brooks, along with fellow singer-songwriters Lee Brice, Jessi Alexander and Bobby Braddock, were all tasked with playing the worst song they’d ever written as well as the first and, while everyone had slightly different interpretations of those words, the selections were mostly the kind that couldn’t be heard anywhere else.
Brooks kicked off the evening with “Anybody But Bill,” detaling a man’s wishes for his wife if he should die — namely, not marrying Bill. Also off the list for the wife were Jim and Dick, and there were plenty of cringe-inducing jokes to go along with the latter. Still, Brooks (filling in last minute for Chris Stapleton) proved to be no match for Songwriters Hall of Fame member Bobby Braddock, who won the dubious honor of the “Crappy” award with a pair of songs from years back.
There were also some transcendent moments after the humorous first couple of rounds. Brooks offered up “That Summer” and also brought out his wife Trisha Yearwood to sing lead on The Steeldrivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” a Chris Stapleton co-written song later covered by Adele. Yearwood also helped Jessi Alexander on “Nothin’ ‘Bout Memphis,” which she recorded for her 2007 album Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love. Brice sang his Eli Young Bang cut “Crazy Girl” and “I Drive Your Truck,” which Alexander co-wrote. Alexander also introduced her husband Jon Randall to sing his song “Whiskey Lullabye,” a CMA Award-winning hit for Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss.
All the writers, Brooks included, were deferential to Braddock, who impressed with quiet piano renditions of “Time Marches On,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “People Are Crazy.” Noticing an audience member on the verge of tears after the George Jones classic, Braddock — who recently released his book A Life on Nashville’s Music Row — hinted at one of the driving forces for many songwriters.
“That’s why we all write songs — every once in awhile you make somebody cry,” said Braddock. “We’re sadistic like that.”