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Lee Greenwood and “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Lee Greenwood

Melvin Lee Greenwood (b. October 27, 1942) is an American country music song writer and artist, who, active since 1962, has released more than 20 major-label albums and has charted more than 35 singles on the Billboard country music charts. Greenwood was born on October 27, 1942, in South Gate, California, a few miles south of Los Angeles and grew up near Sacramento on the poultry farm of his maternal grandparents. At the age of seven, he started singing in church. In 1959, he joined the Chester Smith Band and had his first television appearance. A short time later, he worked with the country musician Del Reeves.  He founded his first band, The Apollos, in 1962. The band, which changed its name later to Lee Greenwood Affair, played mostly pop music and appeared mostly in casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. A few records were recorded in Los Angeles with the Paramount label. After the band broke up in the 1970s, Greenwood moved back to Las Vegas, where he worked as a blackjack dealer during the day, and as a singer at night.

In 1979, Greenwood was discovered in Reno, Nevada, by Larry McFaden, the bandleader and bassist of Mel Tillis. After making some demo tapes, Greenwood was signed in 1981 by the Nashville division of the MCA label which had recently absorbed the Paramount label, and McFaden became his manager.  His first single, the Jan Crutchfield-penned “It Turns Me Inside Out,” made it to a spot in the top 20 of the country charts. The song had been written for Kenny Rogers, but Rogers turned it down due to the sheer volume of songs he had been offered at the time. “Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands” landed Greenwood in the country top 10. Each song was marketed heavily, particularly in the South Florida market by MCA Account Service Representative Brad Fitzgerald, among others.  Greenwood is known for writing and recording “God Bless the USA,” an American patriotic song, in the early 1980s. It is considered to be his signature song. Greenwood wrote God Bless the U.S.A. in response to his feelings about the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.

In the song, Greenwood sings about how, if he were to lose everything he had and had to start again from scratch, he would do it in the U.S.A. because he is guaranteed his freedom in America. The first album which “God Bless the U.S.A.” appears on is 1984’s You’ve Got a Good Love Comin’. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart when originally released in the spring of 1984, and was played at the 1984 Republican National Convention with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in attendance.  A music video was released for this song in 1984, depicting Greenwood as a farmer who loses the family farm. The video was produced and edited by L.A. Johnson and directed by Gary Burden. Greenwood spoke at the 1988 Republican National Convention with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan behind him.  The song gained renewed popularity following the launch of Operation: Desert Storm in 1990-1991 as a way of boosting morale.  In

1993, Greenwood married the former Miss Tennessee USA Kimberly Payne.  They have two sons together, Dalton and Parker Greenwood.  In 1995, Greenwood took a break from his touring schedule to spend time with his wife and newborn son. In his time off, he elected to build a theater in Sevierville, Tennessee, and in April 1996, the Lee Greenwood Theater opened its doors. This gave Greenwood the opportunity to perform daily shows, in addition to being with his family.   The theater operated for five seasons, and closed for Greenwood to continue touring. The former theater building is now host to a church.  The popularity of “God Bless the USA” rose sharply after the September 11 2001, attacks, and the song was re-released as a single, re-entering the country music charts at No. 16 and peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in late 2001. Since then, Greenwood has played at many public events and commemorations of the attacks.

The song gained even greater prominence duringv the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Itwas also re-recorded in 2003 and released as “God Bless the U.S.A. 2003.”  In addition, Greenwood also wrote a Canadian version of this song called “God Bless You Canada.”  The song has sold over a million copies in the United States by July 2015. In November 2008, President George W. Bush appointed Greenwood to a six-year term to the National Council on the Arts.  Greenwood performed “God Bless the USA” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March 2013.  In 2016, “God Bless the USA” was used by Donald Trump as one of his campaign songs in his campaign to become President of the United States, and Greenwood performed on the Make America Great! Welcome Celebration the day before Inauguration of Trump.

The following work by Lee Greenwood is contained in my collection:

God Bless the U.S.A. (1984).

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