Lee Greenwood brings show to the Weinberg Center
After all these years, Lee Greenwood is still proud to be an American.
Greenwood, songwriter of mega country hit “God Bless the U.S.A.”, along with the Gatlin Brothers, will be performing at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Md. on Sunday, March 31, at 7 p.m.
Before he was known throughout the world as the writer of one of the most patriotic songs of all time, he was building up his experience as a performer in Las Vegas, NV.
“I played all kinds of venues, some main rooms, some lounges,” said Greenwood, 76, via phone from his hotel room in Orlando, Fla. “It was a great time. I was well known in the Nevada area, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. It had a limit, I wasn’t going to have great success staying in Nevada. I made a lot of friends; Elvis (Presley), the Rat Pack. Sammy Davis threw the best parties.”
Greenwood specifically recalls one experience with Elvis. “I was opening up for Bill Medley, and Elvis was in the main room. This was the Flamingo Hilton. Elvis was very nice to everybody in the hotel. We drew a very big crowd.”
The idea for “God Bless the U.S.A.” came to Greenwood when he was traveling on the road in the ‘80s. He said it came out of a moment of spontaneity, and was written quickly.
The song is not all about being a good American, but being a hard worker. For Greenwood, that is the American dream.
“I traveled the nation in a bus when I got the inspiration to write it,” he said. “When I wrote it in 1983, it came to me really quick. I was always inspired after a show to put a keyboard on my lap and just write music. It was hard to go to sleep after a show where my adrenaline was going after playing for 10,000 or so people, so I’d get inspired. I’d written a lot of songs, when it came to that one, I was like, ‘it’s time to write this’. My father was in the military, maybe I met a soldier or something. The first line of the song isn’t about patriotism, it’s about my grandparents being hard at work at farming.”
Along with “God Bless the U.S.A.,” Greenwood had many other country hits during the ’80s and ’90s.
“I got my recording career in MCA (Records) in 1981, on the label was Reba McEntire, George Strait and Barbara Mandrell,” he said. “We had to turn in two albums a year. My first single, ‘Turn Me Inside Out,’ it was 22 weeks on the chart. We couldn’t get it off the charts, it became a big record. I was the first one to record ‘Wind Beneath My Wings.’ It became a hit in England. Bette Midler got the credit for it with ‘Beaches’ 10 years after I recorded it. ‘You’ve Got A Good Love Comin’’ had ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ on it.”
When asked if he is still proud to be an American, Greenwood believes in his song as much as he did when he wrote it.
“I am blessed to be in this country,” he said. “We have strife, we are divided, but this is still a great time for us. No matter what side you’re on, there’s still a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution. I want to make sure I’m a good ambassador wherever I travel. I think that’s important. Fairness is important, and I think if you keep good morals it’s important.”