Country Throwback: Lee Greenwood Belts ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ to Packed Yankee Stadium in 2001

by Suzanne Halliburton

Lee Greenwood performs “Proud To Be An American” at big, beautiful patriotic events.

We think a World Series game is about as authentically All-American as you can get. That’s why Lee Greenwood singing his signature song in New York, weeks after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center, still is so powerful almost two decades later.

Watching the Lee Greenwood video immediately transports us back to the time when the country pulled so tightly together. We held each other in a big, collective hug of support. The song hits you in the patriotic feels and ignites a love of country to levels you might not have known you had. Check it out:

Lee Greenwood Forever Known For The Signature Song

Lee Greenwood is 78. The song is his calling card. “Proud To Be An American” is so closely aligned with Greenwood that we wonder why he doesn’t always wear red, white and blue and sing it in grocery store checkout lines.

Larry McFaden, Mel Tillis’ bassist, discovered Greenwood in 1979 after Greenwood had carved out a career in California and Las Vegas. McFaden became his manager in 1981 when Greenwood signed his first record deal. Greenwood intended to be a traditional country singer, not one who specializes in patriotic songs.

His first song was “It Turns Me Inside Out.” Kenny Rogers passed on the song, allowing it to fall Greenwood’s way. The song cracked the country top 20. Then came “Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hands.” That song hit the top 10.

‘Proud To Be American’ Hits In 1984

Lee Greenwood wrote “Proud To Be An American” and included it on his album, “You’ve Got a Good Love Comin” in 1984. The song climbed to No. 7 on the country charts. It received a big patriotic fist bump in the summer when Republicans included the song on the playlist for their national convention to re-nominate Ronald Reagan.

“I wanted to put God first, because I’m a conservative Christian, and I wanted to make sure that God was honored in the song,” Greenwood told NPR in an interview in 2018. He says of the the music “the Sousa marches were in the back of my head — I did a lot of those as drum major for my high school marching band. And I wanted some pomp and circumstance.”

The song also sports interesting trends. It resurfaces when the nation is in conflict. It received air play when the United States launched Desert Storm in 1990-91. Greenwood added the song to his 1992 album, “American Patriot.”

A decade later, the song was relevant again after 9-11 and through the invasion of Iraq. “Proud To Be An American” reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001. In 2003, Greenwood recorded the song again and called it “God Bless The U.S.A.” Greenwood even wrote a Canadian version of the song. Patriotism knows no boundaries.

There were four music videos. Greenwood released the first in 1984, the second came seven years later. A third hit the musical scene in the weeks after 9-11. Greenwood released a fourth this summer.

For Greenwood, how can you top the moment he walked out to home plate of Yankees Stadium 19 years ago. More than 50,000 fans stood and cheered in one collective, red-white-blue moment of unity.

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