PROUD AMERICAN Lee Greenwood’s anthem still resonates
Lee Greenwood didn’t have big plans for “God Bless the USA” when he composed the song in 1983.
“It’s not like I sat down and said, ‘I’m going to write the song of my life.’ ”
But,hesaid,thesongwas“something I believed in.”
Greenwood, a Grammy Awa rd-win ning singer who will perform
Saturday at Ave Maria Home’s 15th Annual Silent Auction and Concert in the Sally Hook Performing Arts Center at St. Agnes Academy-st. Dominic School, said the inspiration for the charttopping patriotic song was a news headline.
“An airliner was shot down. It made me think about America and its strengths and weaknesses. It was a Korean airliner flying over Russian space. It had some Americans on it. It got me to thinking.”
He wrote the song on the road. “I had a piano in the back of my bus. It was an electric piano. I had it hinged against the wall so I could raise it up, slide under it and sit on my bed. I played every single night. I plugged in the headphones.”
Greenwood never planned on the song being a single.
“Universal made that call,” he said, referring to his record label, Universal Music, now Universal Music Group.
He was invited to sing on TV’S “Solid Gold” on Halloween night in 1983 in Los Angeles. He sang one or two of his hits and left the show with a bottle of Champagne given to him by the show’s host, Marilyn Mccoo. He also had a session tape of the album he was working on in his pocket.
Greenwood was in a limo on his way to the airport to go back to Nashville when he asked his driver where Irving Azoff, president of Universal, lived. Azoff’s house was between Barbra Streisand’s and Neil Diamond’s houses, he said.
“Standing in the front door was Irving Azoff and his three little children dressed as bumblebees.”
Greenwood introduced himself, and Azoff invited him in. He said he wanted Azoff to hear his new single, “You’ve Gotta Good Love Comin’.” “But after he listened to ‘USA’ that night, he was like, ‘Well, let me hear the whole project.’ ”
Later, when Greenwood returned to Los Angeles, Azoff was asked which song should be Greenwood’s new single. “He said, ‘I think it ought to be ‘ God Bless the USA,’” Greenwood said.
In 1985, Greenwood won the CMA Song of the Year for writing “God Bless the USA.” The song has been in the top five of the country singles charts three times, the only song in any genre of music to achieve that feat. It also rose No. 1 on the pop charts after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The song is part of the Department of Homeland Security film shown during the swearing-in ceremony for new U.S. citizens.
Greenwood wrote a children’s book, “Proud to be an American” (Clovercroft Publishing, $15), which teaches children about patriotism. “This is something for grandparents and parents to read to their children,” he said.
The illustrated book, which was published last year, debuted at the top of the Amazon charts the week of its release.
“I think patriotism gets a little lost in our society,” Greenwood said. “Thank God for sports. If we didn’t have basketball games, baseball games, hockey games and football games, I don’t think we would hear the national anthem again.’”
Greenwood’s latest CD is “I Want to be in Your World.” He wrote three of the seven songs and plays saxophone on the original track “Here Comes Love There Goes My Heart.” He also covered the Michael Mcdonald/kenny Loggins ballad ‘You Can Let Go Now,’ which features Mcdonald, a former Memphian, on piano.