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Greenwood in 2005
|Member of the National Council on the Arts|
November 2008 – November 2014
|Nominated by||George W. Bush|
|President||George W. Bush|
Melvin Lee Greenwood
October 27, 1942
South Gate, California, US
Kimberly Payne (m. 1993)
|Labels||MCA, Capitol, Liberty, Curb, Country Crossing|
Melvin Lee Greenwood (born October 27, 1942) is an American country music artist. Active since 1962, he has released more than 20 major-label albums and has charted more than 35 singles on the Billboard country music charts.
Greenwood is known for his patriotic signature song "God Bless the U.S.A.", which was originally released and successful in 1984, and became popular again during the Gulf War in 1991 and after the September 11, 2001 attacks (becoming his highest charting pop hit, reaching number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100). He also has charted seven number-ones on the US Hot Country Songs list in his career: "Somebody's Gonna Love You", "Going, Going, Gone", "Dixie Road", "I Don't Mind the Thorns (If You're the Rose)", "Don't Underestimate My Love For You", "Hearts Aren't Made to Break (They're Made to Love)", and "Mornin' Ride". His 1983 single "I.O.U." was also a top-five hit on the adult contemporary charts, and a number 53 on the Hot 100.
Greenwood was born in South Gate, California, a few miles south of Los Angeles. After the separation of his parents, he grew up near Sacramento on the poultry farm of his maternal grandparents. At the age of seven, he started singing in church. In 1969, he joined the Chester Smith Band and had his first television appearance. A short time later, he worked with the country musician Del Reeves.
He founded his first band, The Apollos, in 1962. The band, which changed its name later to Lee Greenwood Affair, played mostly pop music and appeared mostly in casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. A few records were recorded in Los Angeles with the Paramount label. After the band broke up in the 1970s, Greenwood moved back to Las Vegas, where he worked as a blackjack dealer during the day, and as a singer at night.
In 1979, he was discovered in Reno, Nevada, by Larry McFaden, the bandleader and bassist of Mel Tillis. After making some demo tapes, Greenwood was signed in 1981 by the Nashville division of the MCA label (which had recently absorbed the Paramount label), and McFaden became his manager.
The first single, the Jan Crutchfield-penned "It Turns Me Inside Out", made it to a spot in the top 20 of the country charts. The song had been written for Kenny Rogers, but Rogers turned it down due to the sheer volume of songs he had been offered at the time. "Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands" landed him in the country top 10. Each song was marketed heavily, particularly in the South Florida market by MCA Account Service Representative Brad Fitzgerald, among others.
Greenwood is known for writing and recording "God Bless the USA" in the early 1980s. The song gained renewed popularity following the launch of Operation: Desert Storm in 1991, and again, 10 years later, following the September 11, 2001 attacks. "God Bless the USA" re-entered the top 20 of the country charts in late 2001. Since then, Greenwood has played at many public events and commemorations of the attacks.
The day before the inauguration of Donald Trump, Greenwood performed at the Make America Great! Welcome Celebration. "God Bless the U.S.A." was used by Donald Trump as one of his campaign songs during the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections, and is used again during the 2020 election.
National Council on the Arts
In 1995, Greenwood took a break from his touring schedule to spend time with his wife and newborn son. In his time off, he elected to build a theater in Sevierville, Tennessee, and in April 1996, the Lee Greenwood Theater opened its doors. This gave Greenwood the opportunity to perform daily shows, in addition to being with his family. The theater operated for five seasons, and closed for Greenwood to continue touring. The former theater building is host to a church.
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