Garth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
© Shawn Miller, Library of Congress

Garth Brooks marveled at how many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were singing along to his hits as he accepted the Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at a tribute concert on Wednesday in Washington.

“I hope this doesn’t offend you,” Brooks quipped to the audience from the stage at DAR Constitution Hall, “but boy, I never thought I’d see unity like this in this crowd!”

The award is the Library of Congress’s most prestigious honor, given to artists who promote the “genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding, entertaining and informing audiences, and inspiring new generations of musicians.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Standing beside the 58-year-old country music legend as he accepted it was a bipartisan congressional show of force: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death 5 things to know about US-China tensions over Hong Kong Pelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' MORE (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman MORE (R-Calif.) and Reps. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse pays tribute to late Congressman Sam Johnson on the floor Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA MORE (R-La.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in House scheduled to return for votes in late June House pushes back schedule to pass spending bills MORE (D-Md.) and Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve MORE (R-Ill.), and Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  MORE (D-Vt.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWashington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (R-Mo.).

Before accepting the award, Brooks chatted with ITK about his own recent politics-related snafu.

Many fans went haywire when the “Friends in Low Places” singer was eyed wearing a jersey with “Sanders 20” on it at a concert last month in Detroit. Some mistakenly believed the get-up was a show of support for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support The battle of two Cubas Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Ro Khanna MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2020 White House bid, when it was actually an ode to former Detroit Lions player Barry Sanders.

“There was a lot of noise” following the flap, a grinning Brooks said, “but then all of the sudden Barry Sanders — one of the greatest athletes, greatest human beings in the world — goes, ‘Hey Garth, you want to be my running mate?’ ”

Brooks — who’s largely stayed mum on his political preferences — called the Sanders mix-up “so much fun.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But would he actually consider a real political run?

“No!” he exclaimed with a laugh.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden told ITK that even in politically divisive times, the selection of Brooks as the newest recipient of the Gershwin Prize was a no-brainer.

“Garth Brooks has proven that he’s a person who’s a unifier,” Hayden said, “and he uses music to bring people together.”

Brooks also brought a who’s who of country music to the nation’s capital to help celebrate his career: his wife, country music star Trisha Yearwood, Keith Urban, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Stapleton, Lee Brice, former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno and blues musician Keb’ Mo’.

Among the members of Congress spotted at the event: McCarthy and Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in Government watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (R-Kan.) chatting with Skaggs; Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (R-Ohio) joining in a standing ovation after Brooks and Urban opened the concert with a spirited duet of “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” and Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdJulián Castro launches PAC to support progressive candidates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers MORE (R-Texas) tapping his hand and head along to the beat as Chris Stapleton belted out “Rodeo.”

The Gershwin Prize concert will air as a TV special on PBS stations on March 29.