Lee Greenwood Shares Inspiration Behind Patriotic Hit Song ‘God Bless The U.S.A.’

Photo from Lee Greenwood’s Instagram

Lee Greenwood Shares Inspiration Behind Patriotic Hit Song ‘God Bless The U.S.A.’

By Movieguide® Contributor

Almost 40 years after the release of “God Bless The U.S.A,” songwriter Lee Greenwood opened up about the inspiration behind his hit song. 

At first, Greenwood had trouble getting a label to release his patriotic ballad. 

“It took me almost three years after I got to Nashville as a touring artist, and there wasn’t any interest in releasing ‘God Bless the U.S.A’ as a single record,” Greenwood explained. “If you were pursuing a career, it was romantic love songs, ballads that really hit the public right in the heart. When I toured with so many different acts, I got inspired again to write the song that would eventually become America’s most recognized anthem.”

He continued: 

When Universal made the call after they heard “U.S.A.” on that album to release it as a single, I was just surprised.  I think that if that had not happened, no one would have ever heard the song, and it probably would have just been one of those things in my discography that I was proud of, but it was more than that.  When it got on the radio, the audience heard it, it became the song for the National Guard of Tennessee, and then the military, and then with President Reagan and his ‘84 campaign, which I was part of, and then moved forward to Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf War – not in that order – and the (September 11) attack on America.  Each time, more Americans found “God Bless the U.S.A”  to be a song of spirit and unity.  It didn’t happen overnight.

Greenwood said that he hopes the song will continue encourage and remind American’s of their heritage and the faith-filled history of America.

“I’m a conservative Christian,” Greenwood said. “And even though most people recognize the song who may not be Christian, or just don’t know how to sing the whole song (think) ‘I’m Proud to Be an American’ is the title.  I’ll go with that, and as far as on the sheet music MCA has listed, after pressure for many years, ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ (with the) subtitle ‘I’m Proud to Be an American.’”

“I’m O.K. with that,” Greenwood concluded. “The reason I wrote that line was not just because my father served in World War II, and survived it by the way, but I hadn’t heard for many, many years that people were proud of their heritage.  My heritage is American.  Sure, I’m German, English, Irish, Scottish, but I was born in the United States of America and this is my heritage, American.”

“So, when I said ‘I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free,’ I know that resonated with every American who has lost a son or daughter in conflict combat, and maybe just the strife of how we exist here in America,” he finished. “There’s no other country like this that’s free like we are.” 

Watch the full interview here.

Greenwood previously performed the hit at the Movieguide® Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry in 2002.

Before the awards gala, Greenwood said, “My heart is a little heavy for all the troops out in the desert sucking sand while we are in this beautiful hotel. On the other hand, I think the right attitude is to let them know that we support this movement and we’re going to take a dictator out who has been suppressing and killing his people. With that in mind, we are here to celebrate America’s resolve to have entertainment that is morally conscious.”

Greenwood said at the gala, “‘God Bless the USA’ is certainly an anthem for me and I don’t know if it was a dream to have this length of term, but I am very happy to sing it whenever I can.”

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