God Bless the U.S.A.
|"God Bless the U.S.A."|
|Single by Lee Greenwood|
|from the album You've Got a Good Love Comin'|
|B-side||"This Old Bed"|
|Released||May 21, 1984|
|Format||Audio cassette (original release)|
CD single (re-release)
|Length||3:09 (album & single versions)|
5:30 (video version)
|Lee Greenwood singles chronology|
2001 re-release cover
"God Bless the U.S.A." is an American patriotic song written and recorded by country music artist Lee Greenwood, and is considered to be his signature song. The first album it appears on is 1984's You've Got a Good Love Comin'. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart when originally released in the spring of 1984, and was played at the 1984 Republican National Convention with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in attendance, but the song gained greater prominence during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, as a way of boosting morale.
The popularity of the song rose sharply after the September 11 attacks and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the song was re-released as a single, re-entering the country music charts at No. 16 and peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in 2001. The song was also re-recorded in 2003 and released as "God Bless the U.S.A. 2003". Greenwood also wrote a Canadian version of this song called "God Bless You Canada". The song has sold over a million copies in the United States by July 2015.
Background and writing
Greenwood wrote God Bless the U.S.A. in response to his feelings about the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007. He said that he "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." As for writing the song itself, Greenwood wrote that it more or less "wrote itself", and that the lyrics flowed naturally from the music as a reflection of his pride to be American.
The reason behind the cities chosen in the song Greenwood says, "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 City and Los Angeles, and he suggested Detroit and Houston because they both were economically part of the basis of our economy—Motortown and the oil industry, so I just poetically wrote that in the bridge."
In the song, the singer sings about how, if he were to lose everything he had and had to start again from scratch, he would do it in the U.S.A. because he is guaranteed his freedom in America. He remembers how other Americans in history had died to secure this freedom, and declares that if he is ever called upon to defend the U.S.A. today, he will gladly stand up and fight because he loves the country.
A music video was released for this song in 1984, depicting Greenwood as a farmer who loses the family farm. The video was produced and edited by L.A. Johnson and directed by Gary Burden. A second video was released in 1991, also on VHS, and was directed by Edd Griles. A third music video was also released after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"God Bless the U.S.A." debuted on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for the week of May 26, 1984.
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||7|
|US Billboard Hot 100||16|
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||16|
|US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)||12|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,192,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
Other notable versions
Pop group Jump5 covered the song for the September 11 attacks in October 2001, altering some of the lyrics: "And I had to start again with just my children and my wife" became "And I had to start again with just my family by my side", and "I thank my lucky stars" became "I thank my God above" to reflect the group's Christian values.
Dolly Parton version
American Idol finalists' version
In 2003, the song was performed by the American Idol season two finalists and released as a single, with part of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. It raised $155,000 for the charity. A word was changed in the released single at the request of one of the finalists who performed the song, Josh Gracin who was also a Marine. The "men" in the line "and I won’t forget the men who died" was replaced with "ones" because Gracin felt that both men and women have died, and the word was therefore changed to reflect that. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was certified gold by the RIAA the same year.
Again, following the death of bin Laden, R&B singer Beyonce Knowles re-released her 2008 cover of the song, the proceeds of which will go to charity. Knowles performed the song on Piers Morgan Tonight on May 5, 2011. After the performance, her version was released as a single to the iTunes Store. In a statement Knowles said, "I cannot think about anything more appropriate to do to help these families... Almost 10 years [after 9/11], it is still so painful for all Americans, especially those who lost loved ones. We were all affected by the tragedies of 9/11 and continue to keep the families who lost loved ones close to our hearts..." Dan Martin of The Guardian felt that the cover was "in contrast" to Knowles' last intervention in national affairs, the Let's Move! Flash Workout fitness initiative. Ronald Mitchell of Newsday commented that "It does our hearts good to see Beyonce work her magic for the greater good." Knowles later also performed the song for the concert she had on July 4, 2011 along with "Best Thing I Never Had" (2011). Nick Neyland of Prefix Magazine commented that "Beyonce is a natural fit for occasions like this, and she doesn't even break a sweat as she hits the high notes despite the soaring temperatures and humidity in the city. That's the mark of a true pro." In Beyoncé's version, the end of the second verse is sung "And it's time to make a change", as well as changing, "If I had to start again with just my children and my wife" to "family by my side."
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