Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)
|"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)"|
|Single by Toby Keith|
|from the album Unleashed|
|B-side||"Who's Your Daddy"|
|Released||May 27, 2002|
|Label||DreamWorks Nashville 450815|
|Toby Keith singles chronology|
"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" is a song written and recorded by American country music artist Toby Keith. The song was written in late 2001, and was inspired by Keith's father's death in March 2001, as well as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States later that year. It was released in May 2002 as the lead single from the album, Unleashed. The song topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming his biggest solo hit on that chart.
On March 24, 2001, Keith's father, Hubert Keith (H.K.) Covel, was killed in a car accident. That event and the September 11, 2001 attacks prompted Keith to write the song "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)", a song about his father's patriotism and faith in the USA. It took him 20 minutes to write the song. Keith noted that the song was written with reference to the war in Afghanistan, claiming to be indifferent on other conflicts, "but you don't have to listen but once to the words to understand that the song was strictly for Afghanistan". "I have no stance on the Iraq war," he continues, "but the second [that I say], Ι have no stance there, I'm not smart enough to tell whether we should be in there or not". At first, Keith refused to record the song and only sang it live at his concerts for military personnel.
The reaction was so strong that the Commandant of the Marine Corps James L. Jones told Keith it was his duty as an American citizen to record the song. "It's your job as an entertainer to lift the morale of the troops," Jones said to Keith. "If you want to serve, that is what you can do." As the lead single from the album Unleashed (2002), "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue" peaked at number 1 on the country charts over the weekend of July 4.
In a November 2003 interview with CBS, Keith gave his take on the song: “It wasn’t written for everybody. And when you write something from your heart – I had a dad that was a veteran, taught me how precious our freedom is – I was so angry when we were attacked here on American soil that it leaked out of me. You know, some people wept when they heard it. Some people got goose bumps. Some people were emotionally moved. Some cheered, turned their fists in the air.”
The song was the last song aired by the Armed Forces Radio Network in Baghdad prior to ceasing operations in Baghdad during the drawdown from Iraq.
ABC invited Keith to sing "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" on a patriotic special it produced in 2002; however, the host of the show, Canadian-born newsman Peter Jennings, requested Keith soften the lyrics of the song or choose another song to sing. Keith refused both requests and did not appear on the special. The rift gave the song a considerable amount of publicity, which led to many national interviews and public performances of the song. During an interview with 60 Minutes, Keith spoke about his public comments about Jennings, saying "I thought it was hilarious. My statement was, ‘Isn't he Canadian?’ to a bunch of press. They laughed and then I said, ‘Well, I bet Dan Rather wouldn't kick me off his show,’" says Keith." Responding to criticisms of the network decision, a representative for ABC stated that because Keith was performing in Utah when the show would broadcast, Keith could be on the program only as the opening act, and that the song was "angry" and "not the kind of tone the producers wanted to use to begin this three-hour celebration."
Keith had a public feud with the Dixie Chicks over both the song and comments they made about President George W. Bush. The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, publicly stated that the song was "ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant." Keith responded by belittling Maines' songwriting skills, and by displaying a backdrop at his concerts showing a doctored photo of Maines with Saddam Hussein. On May 21, 2003, Maines wore a T-shirt with the letters "FUTK" on the front at the Academy of Country Music Awards. While a spokesperson for the Dixie Chicks said that the acronym stood for "Friends United in Truth and Kindness", many, including host Vince Gill, took it to be an obscene shot at Keith and understood the acronym to mean "Fuck You Toby Keith". In August 2003, Keith publicly declared he was "all done feuding with Natalie Maines 'cause I guess there's more important things than that to concentrate on".
Maines later agreed that the FUTK shirt was directed at Keith. In the 2006 documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, backstage footage prior to her appearance wearing the F.U.T.K. shirt recorded the conversation between Maines and Simon Renshaw and confirmed that the original intent of the shirt was in response to Keith's public criticism of her: the letters stood for "Fuck You Toby Keith".
This feud was briefly referenced in an episode of The Simpsons titled "Papa Don't Leech" in 2007, where the Dixie Chicks guest starred. Natalie Maines states "we said some things that came out wrong, but now we got a brand new song", which was later confirmed to be referencing the feud with Keith.
The music video was directed by Michael Salomon and premiered on CMT and GAC on May 31, 2002. It shows Keith performing on stage to a group of soldiers. It also shows footage and photographs of soldiers on duty, as well as America-related scenes. When the video aired on CMT, clips from the 2002 Flameworthy Music Awards were shown.
"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" debuted at number 41 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs for the week of May 25, 2002. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA on January 3, 2006, and platinum on March 27, 2012. The song has sold 1,607,000 digital copies in the U.S. as of July 2019.
Charts and certifications
- "How do you like him now? Toby Keith blasts Peter Jennings and the Dixie Chicks, talks about the pleasures of burping and defends his hit song 'The Angry American'." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. September 6, 2002.
- CBS News (November 5, 2003). "Toby Keith: Being Honest On 'Red, White & Blue,' CMAs And 'Shock'n Y'all'". The Early Show.
- "Courtesy Of The Red, White & Blue". CBS News. October 28, 2003. Archived from the original on April 23, 2008. Retrieved April 22, 2008.
- Cuprisin, Tim (June 17, 2002). "Ruckus over show was a lot of hot air". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. p. B6. Archived from the original on February 15, 2005.
- "Natalie Maines (Dixie Chicks) Bashes Toby Keith's Patriotic Anthem," Top40-charts.com via Los Angeles Daily News. August 8, 2002.
- "Dixie Chicks' Maines uses her voice to sing and to speak out," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. June 5, 2003.
- "Fresh Dixie Chicks row erupts", BBC News. June 3, 2003.
- "Toby Keith Ends Feud with Natalie Maines," Contact Music. August 29, 2003.
- Vincent, Peter (September 1, 2013). "America's 'big bad showdog' Toby Keith to headline Hunter Valley country music festival". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Kopple, Barbara; Peck, Cecilia. (2006) Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing Documentary.
- Bjorke, Matt (July 18, 2019). "Top 30 Digital Country Tracks: July 15, 2019". Roughstock. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
- "Toby Keith Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
- "Toby Keith Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
- "Best of 2002: Country Songs". Billboard. 2002. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- "American single certifications – Toby Keith – Courtesy". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 11, 2014.