Ropin' the Wind

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Ropin' the Wind Music Poster Image
Garth's crossover blockbuster still strong decades later.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Ropin' the Wind begins and ends with songs about the importance of charting your own course, even when your peers think you're crazy. "Against the Grain" contains the lines "If you're gonna make a difference / If you're gonna leave your mark / You can't follow like a bunch of sheep / You got to listen to your heart," while "The River," which became Brooks' signature song, says, "I'll never reach my destination / If I never try / So I will sail my vessel / 'Til the river runs dry." Balancing the maverick ethos, as in much of country music, is a strong Christian sensibility; the other songs, while they don't always find their narrators behaving in an exemplary manner, often have them drawing moral lessons from their experience: "We bury the hatchet," says one song of a couple's unending quarrels about the past, "but  leave the handle sticking out."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some characters (particularly the occasional murderous jealous spouse) don't behave well, but others notably do the right thing under difficult circumstances. While one mom's unfaithful ways lead to disaster for her family, the mom in "Lonesome Dove" saves the day for her boy. Most of the characters, from lonesome truck drivers to commitment-phobic men sneaking away in the night to lovelorn guys whose last shred of self-respect flew out the window weeks ago, are wise enough to know things could be better and they could be doing something about it, but they're not there yet. Others, like the narrator in "Against the Grain" and "The River," have a surer sense of direction.

Violence

"Papa Loved Mama" finds a jealous truck driver murdering his cheating wife, and the story involves kids; this may be a disturbing tale for younger ones. "Lonesome Dove" is a story of the Old West with gun violence by the good guys and the bad guys.

Sex

While cheatin' is a downright classic country theme and it's no surprise that it turns up here (though the cheating spouse is murdered by the non-cheating one), it may be a bit much for younger kids. "Which One of Them," a bonus track included on the current release of the album, finds the singer wondering which of two women hitting on him in a bar he should take home, when the only woman he wants is one who doesn't want him.

Language

"Damned old rodeo" in "Rodeo."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some songs portray adults drinking alcohol, and the dramatic ending of "Papa Loved Mama" comes about when Papa comes home unexpectedly with flowers and a bottle of wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ropin' the Wind confirmed Garth Brooks as a superstar and remains one of the best examples of the rock/country crossover that reinvented country music and brought it to a mass-market audience. Like country music in general, it combines a strong moral, sometimes religious viewpoint with a lot of adult subject matter, including drinkin', fightin', cheatin', and the loneliness of the road, in songs that sometimes go a little deeper or have a more clever twist than the usual clichés. "Papa Loved Mama" finds a jealous truck driver murdering his cheating wife, and the story involves kids; this may be a disturbing tale for younger ones. "Lonesome Dove" is a story of the Old West with gun violence by the good guys and the bad guys.

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What's the story?

Following closely on Garth Brooks' breakthrough album No Fences, ROPIN' THE WIND was the first country album in history to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (pop) chart; the resulting mass-market attention, to say nothing of his classic country lyrics backed by a tight rock band, changed the face of the genre forever. Selling more than 10 million copies in its first two years of release, it was also the peak of Brooks' chart success.

Is it any good?

Before he went to pursue a career in Nashville, Garth Brooks got a college degree in advertising. This comes as little surprise in listening to crossover blockbuster Ropin' the Wind, which benefits from great attention to detail -- from the song selections and lyric choices to the excellent, powerhouse studio musicians -- in its quest to bring old-time country themes to audiences who never thought of themselves as country fans. It's all there: broken hearts, honky-tonks, the Wild West, and Jesus. Not to mention trucks, booze, cheatin', Mama, murder, and prison, wrapped into one neat package ("Papa loved Mama / Mama loved men / Mama's in the graveyard / Papa's in the pen"). Also (one of the album's three No. 1 singles) a torchy cover of Billy Joel's "Shameless."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why country music seems to be about different subjects, and tells different stories, than pop music -- and whether this has anything to do with its success.

  • Do you prefer old-style country music, or the more rock-influenced kind that Garth Brooks makes?

  • Do you like the themes of country music even if you're a city kid?

Music details

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