As far as patriotic songs go, "God Bless the USA" is right up there with the best and most well-known of them all. As Lee Greenwood tells The Boot, he'd wanted to write such a song for quite some time -- and he finally did in the early 1980s.
When "God Bless the USA" was released as a single for the first time, in 1984, it went to No. 7 on the country charts. That same year, the song was played at the Republican National Convention with then-president Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in attendance -- and as the years have gone on, the tune has become a rallying cry during various times of crisis in America: after the launch of Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War in 1991, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and more.
Below, 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.
This story was originally written by Pat Gallagher, and revised by Angela Stefano.
Country Stars Wearing the American Flag
Meigs Magnet School, Nashville, TN
Sponsoring Station: WNPT, Nashville, TN
We all are very lucky to live in this wonderful country, America. People in other countries all around the world wish to live here and to enjoy the freedom we enjoy every day.
I feel fortunate that I was born in America. I think America is the best country in the world. We have freedom, equality, and justice. Some countries in the world still have slavery, and unjust treatment. America doesn't believe in that.
I think it is wonderful growing up in America. You get to see people from all different parts of the world, together, living in one country. Everyone is equal under the law in America. There will always be prejudice and hate, but they are not tolerated in the U.S.
To live in the United States is a great privilege. If you think about it hard, you will realize you are one of the luckiest people in the world to be living in such a great country that lets you have equal rights and freedom.
The United States is the land of opportunity. I really like being able to learn about other people's ethnicities and heritage. I have friends that are from all around the world. One is from Lithuania, another from Africa, even one from Israel. Their families came to America to get freedom and a better life.
America to me in one word is "Home". I would rather live in America than any other country in the world. Growing up in America has been a great experience. I am very glad I don't have to live in a country without freedom or equality.
Not everyone always gets along in America. Even though some people have disputes, Americans have legal ways to work things out. We have a court system to settle disputes. Our laws are passed by individuals we elect.
What really makes our country great is our Constitution. It lets us each have individual rights. That allows us to succeed with what we want to do in America. If we didn't have a Constitution, people in America would not have equal rights.
In conclusion, I love America. It is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Equality and justice are what make this country special. America is a special country because of the people living in it. The United States of America is a great country, and I am proud of it.