Lee Greenwood Tells the Story Behind "God Bless the USA"

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One of the songs often associated with Independence Day is Lee Greenwood's self-composed signature hit "God Bless the USA."  The first album it 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.

The song was played at the 1984 Republican National Convention with President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan in attendance, but the song gained greater prominence during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, as a way of boosting morale. The popularity of the song rose sharply after the September 11 attacks and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 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 2001.

The song was also re-recorded in 2003 and released as "God Bless the USA 2003". The song also rose up in popularity in May 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed by an American raid in Pakistan.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 

Greenwood tells The Boot about his reasons for writing the enduring hit. 

"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 onstage ... 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."



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