God Bless the U.S.A.

Lee Greenwood, 1983

Compare this song to "Born in the U.S.A.," written at the same time. What is the difference in mood between these two songs? How does the anger and disillusionment of "Born in the U.S.A." help explain the popularity of "God Bless the U.S.A."?

Disillusioned Vietnam veterans appreciated the belated recognition of their service. How is it possible to be patriotic and angry or disillusioned at the United States at the same time?

What event happened in 1991 to spark a comeback for this song? Gulf War. It had an even bigger comeback in 2001—why? September 11 terrorist attacks. What was the difference in public reaction to those two events? How did the lines "And I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me, And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today," change in meaning between 1991 and 2001?

Compare this song to patriotic songs in other units. What does "God Bless the U.S.A." have in common with the others? How is it different? Do you think it will still be popular in fifty years? Why? What has to happen for it to have that kind of "staying power"? Songs that have endured have been picked up by other artists and are sung publicly by the general public.

Compare the first verse of this song to "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" in unit 7. Were the writers/singers of those songs unpatriotic, or is Lee Greenwood unrealistic? What possible explanations are there for this seeming difference of opinion?

"God Bless the U.S.A." performed by Lee Greenwood on The Best of Lee Greenwood, Nashville: Curb Records [D2-77862], © 1996. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

 

For more information about Lee Greenwood, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leegreenwood/godblesstheusa.html

God Bless the USA album cover
Album cover for "God Bless the USA."

Lee Greenwood was born in Sacramento, California, in 1942. He began playing saxophone at age ten and formed his first band while he was still in high school. Greenwood skipped his high school graduation and turned down a college music scholarship to play in a band in Reno, Nevada. This move established his career on the Nevada casino lounge circuit as band leader, performer, arranger, songwriter, and sometimes blackjack dealer. After struggling on tours with bands, Greenwood returned to the casinos, which he called "the green felt jungle."

"God Bless the U.S.A." earned the Country Music Association's 1985 Song of the Year award and was used during the successful presidential campaigns of both Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. It reemerged during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and again after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when it was played nationwide on a variety of radio stations, not just country stations. Lee Greenwood performed the song at New York City's World Trade Center memorial service at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2001.

Compare this song to:

Patriotic songs in other units: "America the Beautiful" (Unit 5), "God Bless America" (Unit 7) and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Unit 4).

"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (Unit 7)

"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (Unit 7)

"Born in the U.S.A." (this unit)