Garth Brooks often makes grand romantic statements in his music, but he kept things much simpler on March 19. Accompanying fellow country star Trisha Yearwood to a Nashville memorial for songwriter Harlan Howard, Brooks tenderly draped his arm around her during the event and held her hand as they exited. "It looked perfectly natural," says Peter Cooper, who covered the tribute for The Tennessean. "Like two people who care about one another."
But for Brooks, those actions—which seemed to confirm a long-rumored romance between the pair—spoke louder than stacked Marshall amps. "Garth never does anything by accident," says Country Weekly editor-in-chief Neil Pond. Though the singers' reps won't comment, Cooper says the coupling has been "an open secret" in Nashville, where the pair had been spotted dining out together with increasing frequency. Adds a music executive close to Brooks: "He has been in love with her for years."
Until recently both singers were spoken for. Legally separated from wife Sandy, 37, since 1999, Brooks, 40, was divorced in December. (The couple have three daughters: Taylor, 9, August, 7, and Allie, 5.) Yearwood, 37, divorced bassist Robert Reynolds in 2000 after a five-year marriage.
Still, the pairing seems a natural for Brooks and Yearwood, who met in the late '80s as demo singers in Nashville. They've since recorded six songs together, including their current hit, "Squeeze Me In." Says Brooks pal video director Jon Small: "Every time we are in the studio and she comes in to sing, he just lights up."
These days he must be luminescent: Brooks and Yearwood reportedly have plans to collaborate on an entire album of duets. Says Pond: "They may be the first of the true superstar couples to roll up their sleeves and get in there musically."
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