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Country music star Lee Greenwood is perhaps best known for his iconic and moving song, “God Bless the USA” — many people can’t hear that song without shedding a tear — yet his body of music over his long and accomplished career is extensive and his care and concern for America run very, very deep.
He spends a great deal of time helping to raise thousands of dollars on a regular basis for charities that assist wounded veterans, law enforcement and others through Helping A Hero, a Texas-based national organization.
Recently, just ahead of the 4th of July, he partnered with global firework manufacturer Black Cat® to introduce a 42-shot “Proud to Be an American” firework available in select locations across the country.
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Fox News Digital spoke to Greenwood by phone as he was kicking off a busy 4th of July holiday weekend packed with concerts and special events — including an appearance on July 5th at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
“As a kid, I was raised in California on a farm — we were sharecroppers,” he told Fox News Digital.
“We didn’t take much time for holidays. I was generally working, and I have been working, on holidays since I was a kid.”
“So it’s not so much about that [4th of July] holiday,” he said, “as it is about reaffirming our faith that we are so grateful to be in a free country.”
“My message basically is to remember that freedom is not free.”
Greenwood also said, “I think my message basically is to remember that freedom is not free.”
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And that every time we enjoy fireworks or other celebrations on the 4th, he added, we should “remember that it was paid for, in blood, by our service members — our military. That’s pretty much my message now.”
What does he think about the politicization today of so much by so many?
“It’s very difficult sometimes to push away from politics,” he said. “Of course, politics is in everything and not just [from] the politicians in Washington, DC, who try to turn the country their way — left or right, the middle, or whatever.”
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“What I try to do,” he added, “is to stay true to my art, true to my music, true to my family and certainly true to my country.”
“Freedom brings dissension — but it also brings unity when a crisis comes.”
He described his family’s recent trip to Croatia, and also the travels of his wife, Kim, to London — and how, when she returned, she shared with him that many of the people she met or talked to there said they were surprised by reports of the unrest and dissent in America right now over so many issues.
“And I told her, Well, that’s what freedom brings. Freedom brings dissension — but it also brings unity, when a crisis comes,” said Greenwood. “I was visible and very involved in America’s rebuilding right after 9/11, as you know. And I continue to do that. I try to get rid of divisiveness and breed unity.”
He said he focuses on family and faith — and that they are central to his life in every way.
Greenwood said he is frequently thanked by people after his concerts or other events.
“I’m humbled by it,” he said, “and I don’t really need justification for what I do — but I’m glad that people recognize that this isn’t on the surface for me. This goes deep with me .”
He said “it’s pretty cool” for him that people take the time to thank him or share their gratitude or thoughts with him, especially about his iconic song, “God Bless the USA.”
“And it’s people of all ages, too,” he said. “It seems like the grandparents passed it down to the parents, who passed it down to the kids.”
“That’s the way God works. You make a plan and then things change. You can’t really plan for what His plan is. I go by that axiom.”
Greenwood said that “it’s just a simple piece of music that seems to have resonated with people. ‘God Bless the USA’ means so much to people when it’s played at the end of fireworks shows” and other events, he said.
Greenwood revealed that “God Bless the USA” wasn’t originally meant to be a single.
“I’m a sharecropper farmer from California, who was in high cotton most of the time. I had no idea that it would ever reach the pinnacle that it has. And I wrote that song for an album cut back in 1983, back when I was with MCA. It wasn’t proposed or promised to be a single.”
“I love singing, I love being a musician and an artist — and I love entertaining.”
“It was only the Universal Company that requested it to be the single off that album [later] — it was my fourth or fifth album with MCA at that time. And I don’t think it would have ever been heard had they not made that choice.”
But “that’s the way God works,” said Greenwood.
“You make a plan and then things change, and it’s because you can’t really plan for what His plan is. I go by that axiom.”
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What keeps him going?
“I love what I do. I love singing, I love being a musician and an artist — and I love entertaining.”
Lee Greenwood launched his own Patriot Awards recently — and this weekend, his group is honoring Tony Orlando.
He is also very active with the Houston-based charity Helping A Hero — to give back to wounded and courageous American warriors.
“It makes my heart swell with pride to do this,” he said.
Helping A Hero is “very unique,” he said.
“We’ve given 200 homes in 10 years — and this year we’re on a fast track to do another 100 homes,” he said, thanks to CEO Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops, he added, who is supporting the first 10 of those 100 new homes.
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Anyone can go to HelpingAHero.org or LeeGreenwood.com to help America’s “wounded warriors who need and deserve a home,” said Greenwood.
Greenwood has more than 30 albums to his credit.
And he said when he sings some of the songs from that incredible body of work, people say, “Oh, yeah, I remember that one! And I remember that one. And I remember that one, too.”
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Lee Greenwood is married to his wife, Kimberly Payne, a former Miss Tennessee. They were married in Nashville in 1992 and have two sons, Dalton and Parker.
In 1985, “God Bless The USA” was named Song of the Year by the Country Music Awards.