Behind the Song: God Bless the USA

Are you proud to be an American?

In honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I thought we would look at another Patriotic song.  God Bless the USA is as popular as God Bless America.

The song was written and is the signature song of Lee Greenwood.  He has been inspired by patriots all his life.  His father, step-father, first base player and other friends were all in the military.  In an interview, Greenwood recounts living on a military base while in high school.  He said this influence led to “the inner feeling of wanting to be a patriot.”

This desire led him to long to write a song about America.  He wanted to write a song that wasn’t for one specific sect of people, but for “an anthem for Americans”.

Lee Greenwood

In an interview, country musician Lee Greenwood said he’d wanted to write a song about America for a long time.  In his words,  “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.”

Greenwood stated the words and lyrics pretty much wrote itself as he prepared for his next album in 1983.

Where at least I know I’m free

He was touched by an event, of Russia shooting down Korean Air Flight 007, which was on it’s way from Seoul to New York City.  Greenwood said, “I saw the senseless strike as a personal attack against our countrymen and it moved me to put pen to paper. The song came so easily, it nearly wrote itself.”

I thank my lucky stars to be living here today

The reason behind the cities chosen in the song Greenwood says, “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 City and Los Angeles, and he suggested Detroit and Houston because they both were economically part of the basis of our economy—Motortown and the oil industry, so I just poetically wrote that in the bridge.”

Greenwood went on to say, “When I put it on stage, I think it was the fall of ’83, I put it in

At least I know I’m free

the middle of the show just as a brand-new song. Wow, it was like the audience jumped up, and they were applauding. It helps to have a career that is really exploding to bring a song to bear that is palpable. 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.”

The song was first released on Greenwood’s 1984 album, You’ve Got a Good Love Comin’.  At first the song was not a big hit, but gained momentum and eventually reached #7 on the Billboard Country charts.  A music video of the song was also released this year.

Would you stand up to defend your country?

In 1984, the song was played at the Republican National Convention for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.  During the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, the song boosted morale and gained prominence. In 1991, a second music video featuring the song was released.

In 1992, Greenwood released the song on his album, American Patriot.  This album featured nothing but patriotic music.  Greenwood said, “The American Patriot album really was the one that solidified ‘God Bless the USA’ in a time capsule, if you will, for all time.”

The song again gained popularity after the attacks on September 11, 2001.  Following the

Pride in every American heart

attacks on 9/11, Greenwood released a third video of God Bless the USA.

Greenwood expressed the resurgence of the song by telling The Boot, “It keeps having a different kind of life. I mean during the Gulf War, it was a song of the war for General 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.”

Proud to be An American

Lee Greenwood has performed the song for four presidential inaugurations, Ronald Reagan {1985}, George H.W. Bush {1989}, George W. Bush {2001} and Donald Trump {2017}.

In 2015, Greenwood released a children’s book, Proud to Be An American.  The book features the song lyrics and provides a glimpse into the author’s own childhood, as he was raised by his grandparents. Greenwood explained his reasoning by saying, “The reason I didn’t put the parents raising the child is because I was raised by my grandparents, so there’s a grandfather and a

Can’t forget those who gave their lives

grandmother in the book, showing a young boy all the things you should love about America.”

God Bless the USA has sold more than a million copies in the United States.

“It stands for all of us,” Greenwood said in an interview with Billboard. “I just tried to draw a compass around America, and bring us all together”.

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