It"s been practically 40 years since Lee Greenwood wrote his signature "God Bless The U.S.A." — a patriotic anthem educated by his veteran father, his experience traveling across the nation in a tour bus, and also one of Elvis Presley"s late-period classics, among a life time of other experiences.

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In a conversation through Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters association International, Greenwood traced the four-decade course to "God Bless," and also the trip the song has taken in the decades since.

Bart Herbison: There’s a little handful of song that ns characterize as perfect songs, Lee. Take us earlier to the day. What inspired you for this? You know it might be one of the many recognizable songs, globally, ever written.

Lee Greenwood: i was raised on a farm in Sacramento, California. Mine parents were divorced when I was a year old, so mine grandparents to be my guardians. My father joined the navy after the battle of Pearl harbor in 1941, therefore you have the right to see i was born about a year later. Mine mom had to work several tasks in order to assistance me and my sister, for this reason she yes, really couldn’t purchased to have childcare if she was functioning so that’s why i was raised by mine grandparents, Thomas and Edna Jackson, who I love dearly. 

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I had farm chores, I had music. My mom was a piano player in the ‘40s. We had a tiny Spinet piano in the corner of our trailer. I was allowed to beat every evening if I wanted to and also it was just something I can not tear myself far from. Ns listened to all kinds the music growing up. Ns played because that The American Legion, The VFW, and also marching in parades. Ns was immersed in all kinds that music. Ns learned an ext than the piano while I was in junior high and also high school, and by the moment I graduated in 1960, ns had developed my own band and left for Nevada. During those early years – since I to be the drum significant in the high school marching tape – i really delighted in the marches the Sousa and many of the various other composers and also leading my very own band in The national Anthem. Then (I was) functioning for the USO when I was 15 and also 16 in ~ McClellan and significant Air pressure bases in Sacramento…I acquired a great taste that the military and also their sacrifice. 

…I spent twenty years in Nevada composing music, play for revues of all kinds, even dealing cards in the casinos where I learned the psychology of people under pressure, gambling, and drinking in ~ the exact same time…So, there was a most input at the time, and also there to be something within me the said, “Someday I’d prefer to create a song favor (‘An American Trilogy’) that Elvis sings.” we were working in the exact same hotel numerous times and I listened come the song. It to be inspiring. The course, ns learned a most the (patriotic) songs when I was learning my music in high school. I simply said, “If I ever get come Nashville, and also I think that’s most likely where i will finish up due to the fact that L.A. Chewed me up and spit me out, I’ll create a track kind of favor the trilogy.” 

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About the series

In partnership through Nashville Songwriters combination International, the "Story Behind the Song" video interview series features Nashville-connected songwriters pointing out one of your compositions. For full video interviews with all of our subjects, visit

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