Two time CMA Male Vocalist Of The Year, and GRAMMY-winning country music artist Lee Greenwood celebrates the 35th anniversary this week of the release of his signature hit song, the patriotic “God Bless The USA.” The song first appeared on his 1984 album, You’ve Got a Good Love Comin, and spent 37 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, becoming a Top 10 Hit.
“It is with great pride that 35 years ago today I decided to release the song, ‘God Bless the USA.’ I wrote it to show my love for this country,” said Greenwood. “That decision would prove to be the most important career choice of my life. I’m grateful for the many times I’ve been given the chance to inspire Americans through hard times and happy times. I thank my parents for the gift of music; I thank the industry for the belief in my artistic ability; I thank my wife Kim for never doubting me, and I thank God for His grace as He has lifted me up from nothing. There will be other songs that will be added to America’s library of patriotic music. I’m simply amazed that I was able to write one as well.”
“God Bless The USA” had a resurgence soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, peaking again on Billboard’s Hot 100 song chart. Soon after, Greenwood performed the song at Game 4 of the World Series in New York City on Oct. 31, 2001, receiving a highly emotional response from the crowd.
Greenwood wrote “God Bless the U.S.A.” while riding the back of his tour bus in response to his feelings about the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.
“As I stated in my song, ‘God Bless the USA,’ ‘There ain’t no doubt I love this land.’ My love of the land came from being raised on a farm in California and singing for USO shows while I was still in high school,” Greenwood said in a recent statement on the song’s origin. “I’m honored this song is still being shared, and more importantly, being recognized as a song which unites, because that is exactly the reason why I wrote it.
I wanted to write it my whole life. When I got to that point, we were doing 300 days a year on the road, and we were on our fourth or fifth album on MCA. I called my producer, and I said, ‘I have a need to do this.’ I’ve always wanted to write a song about America, and I said, ‘We just need to be more united.’
I’m from California, and I don’t know anybody from Virginia or New York, so when I wrote it — and my producer and I had talked about it — [we] talked about the four cities I wanted to mention, the four corners of the United States. It could have been Seattle or Miami, but we chose New York and LA, and he suggested Detroit and Houston because they both were economically part of the basis of our economy — Motown and the oil industry — so I just poetically wrote that in the bridge.
When I put it on stage … I think it was the fall of ’83, I put it in the middle of the show, just as a brand-new song. Wow, it was like the audience jumped up, and they were applauding … I did it for about two weeks like that, and then I had to put it at the end of the show as an encore; I couldn’t follow it.
It keeps having a different kind of life. I mean, during the Gulf War, it was a song of the war for [U.S. Army] Gen. [Norman] Schwarzkopf. After Hurricane Katrina, it was a song for life and hope, and then after 9/11, it was a song of unity and rebuilding. It just makes me really proud that I’ve done something for the country and for my family. It’s my family’s heritage.
I recorded the American Patriot album [in 1992] — that album was a way to embrace “God Bless the USA” with all other American songs, including “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” the National Anthem … even the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The American Patriot album really was the one that solidified “God Bless the USA” in a time capsule, if you will, for all time.”