Lee Greenwood

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Lee Greenwood
Man performing in a Stars and Stripes jacket
Greenwood in 2005
Member of the National Council on the Arts
In office
November 2008 – February 2022
Nominated byGeorge W. Bush
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Barack Obama
Donald Trump
Joe Biden
Preceded byMakoto Fujimura
Succeeded byKamilah Forbes
Personal details
Melvin Lee Greenwood

(1942-10-27) October 27, 1942 (age 81)
South Gate, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Kimberly Payne
(m. 1993)
Musical career
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Instrument(s)Vocals, saxophone, harmonica
Years active1962–present
LabelsMCA, Capitol, Liberty, Curb, Country Crossing

Melvin Lee Greenwood[1] (born October 27, 1942)[2] is an American country music singer-songwriter and saxophonist.[3] 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 in the spring of 1984 and a popular song typically played in Republican political rallies. That summer, it was included in a film about President Ronald Reagan, the Republican presidential nominee, that was shown at the 1984 Republican National Convention.[4] "God Bless the U.S.A." gained prominence during the 1988 United States presidential election campaign, when Greenwood performed the song at the 1988 Republican National Convention and at rallies for the Republican nominee, George H.W. Bush.[5][6] The song was also featured in television advertisements for Bush.[7] It later 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), and again during the 2016 and 2020 United States presidential elections as President Donald Trump's rally introduction track. He also has charted seven number-ones on the U.S. 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.

Early life[edit]

Greenwood was born in South Gate, California, a few miles south of Los Angeles. After his parents separated, he grew up in Sacramento, on the farm of his maternal grandparents.[8] At the age of seven, he started singing in church.

Greenwood did not serve in the United States military despite the universal draft at the time. He has said that was given a 3A deferment for family hardship due to having children at age 17. [9] He eloped to Reno, Nevada with his first wife Edna Greenwood in 1960. [10]


Greenwood speaking at the 1988 Republican National Convention, with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan
Greenwood with President George H. W. Bush in 1991
Greenwood performing "God Bless the USA" at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2013

Greenwood founded his first band, The Apollos, in 1962.[2] The band, which changed its name later to Lee Greenwood Affair, played mostly pop music and appeared mostly in casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2]

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 chart in 1981.[2] 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 U.S.A." in the early 1980s,[2] and later "God Bless You Canada". The song gained renewed popularity following the launch of Operation: Desert Storm in 1991,[11] and again, 10 years later, following the September 11, 2001, attacks. "God Bless the U.S.A." re-entered the top 20 of the country charts in late 2001. Since then, Greenwood has played across the US, 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 was used again during the 2020 presidential election.[12]

Greenwood performed for Marsha Blackburn after her victory in her Senate election.[13][better source needed]

On May 19, 2018, Lee Greenwood was awarded the MMP Music Award for his lifelong contribution to the music industry and inducted into the MMP Hall of Fame by Commander Joseph W. Clark.

National Council on the Arts[edit]

In September 2008, President George W. Bush nominated Greenwood to succeed Makoto Fujimura for a six-year term to the National Council on the Arts[14] expiring in 2014. He was confirmed by the Senate via voice vote in October 2008. In 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Esperanza Spalding to succeed Greenwood; however, the nomination was not acted upon by the Senate,[15] allowing Greenwood to continuing serving under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump until the Senate confirmed a nominated successor.[16] In June 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Kamilah Forbes to succeed Greenwood.[17] In September 2021, Greenwood told Fox and Friends that the Biden administration sent him an email informing him that the president had already nominated his replacement on the National Council on the Arts and expressed his "shock" at being replaced.[18] Forbes got confirmed by the Senate on February 17, 2022, via voice vote.[19]


In 1995, Greenwood took a break from his touring schedule to spend more time with his family. 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.[20] The theater operated for five seasons, and closed for Greenwood to continue touring. The former theater building is host to a church.

The "God Bless the USA" Bible[edit]

In May 2021, to commemorate the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre, Greenwood published the God Bless the U.S.A. Bible. This edition of the Bible has the U.S. flag on its leather cover and includes the texts of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the chorus of "God Bless the USA" in Greenwood's handwriting.[21] The text of the Bible was intended to be the New International Version,[22] but Zondervan, the division of HarperCollins that owns the rights to the New International Version, withheld them rather than associate Christianity with U.S. nationalism, and it used the King James Version, which is in the public domain in the United States.[23] It created further controversy in 2024 when former president Donald Trump promoted a new edition of it.[24]


Greenwood is married to former Miss Tennessee USA Kimberly Payne, his fourth wife and fifth marriage.[25] The former Miss Payne is 25 years his junior. They have two sons together, Dalton and Parker Greenwood.[26] Previously he was married four times, the first two of them to Edna Greenwood, whom he divorced and remarried. [27] He has four children from his earlier marriages.[28]



  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 143.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 166/7. ISBN 0-85112-726-6.
  3. ^ "Interview: Lee Greenwood chats his 4th of July tour, family and his music". July 1, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  4. ^ Kastor, Elizabeth (July 20, 1988). "STAYING IN TIME WITH THE REPUBLICANS". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  5. ^ "User Clip: Lee Greenwood God Bless the USA | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  6. ^ "User Clip: Lee Greenwood performs at Bush rally in Grand Rapids, MI; Nov. 2, 1988 | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  7. ^ "The Living Room Candidate - Commercials - 1988 - Bush America". www.livingroomcandidate.org. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  8. ^ "Story Behind the Song: Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the U.S.A.'". The Tennessean. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  9. ^ "Did 'God Bless the USA' Composer Lee Greenwood Flee to Canada to Avoid Vietnam War Draft?". Snopes.com. November 5, 2001. Archived from the original on September 17, 2022. Retrieved April 13, 2024.
  10. ^ Staff report (July 26, 1984). "No Time on Country Star Lee Greenwood's Hands". Allentown Morning Call. Retrieved April 13, 2024.
  11. ^ "Greenwood will entertain troops on Armed Forces TV". The Daily News-Journal. January 24, 1991.
  12. ^ "FULL TRUMP RALLY: President Trump holds campaign rally in Dallas, Texas". YouTube. October 17, 2019. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2019.
  13. ^ "Blackburn speaks after Tennessee Senate win". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  14. ^ "Bush appoints Lee Greenwood to National Arts Council". Los Angeles Times. November 3, 2008.
  15. ^ "PN1004 - Nomination of Esperanza Emily Spalding for National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, 114th Congress (2015-2016)". Library of Congress. January 3, 2017.
  16. ^ "National Council on the Arts". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved November 13, 2021.
  17. ^ "PN755 - Nomination of Kamilah Forbes for National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, 117th Congress (2021-2022)". Library of Congress. June 24, 2021.
  18. ^ Staff, Fox News (September 23, 2021). "Lee Greenwood 'shocked' for being replaced on arts council by Biden administration". Fox News. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  19. ^ "PN755 - Nomination of Kamilah Forbes for National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, 117th Congress (2021-2022)". www.congress.gov. February 17, 2022. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  20. ^ James, Gary (April 22, 1997). "The Lee Greenwood Interview". The Harbinger. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  21. ^ "God Bless the USA Bible". God Bless the USA Bible. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  22. ^ Holly Meyer. "Lee Greenwood's hit song inspires new 'God Bless the USA Bible' including America's founding documents". Nashville Tennessean.
  23. ^ Olmstead, Molly (September 15, 2021). "The Uproar over the "Ultimate American Bible"". Slate. The Slate Group. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  24. ^ Treisman, Rachel (March 27, 2024). "Cash-strapped Trump is now selling $60 Bibles, U.S. Constitution included". NPR. National Public Radio. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  25. ^ "Lee Greenwood on Why Fourth Time's the Charm". The Boot. March 3, 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  26. ^ "Lee Greenwood bio on Greenwood's official site". Archived from the original on September 12, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  27. ^ Staff report (July 26, 1984). "No Time on Country Star Lee Greenwood's Hands". Allentown Morning Call. Retrieved April 13, 2024.
  28. ^ "Lee Greenwood on Why Fourth Time's the Charm". The Boot. March 3, 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wood, Gerry (1998). "Lee Greenwood". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 212–213.

External links[edit]