Melvin Lee Greenwood
(born October 27, 1942) is an American country music artist. Active since 1962, he has released more than twenty major-label albums and has charted more than 35 singles on the Billboard
country music charts.Greenwood is best known for his single and signature song "God Bless the USA", which was popular when it was originally released in 1984, and became popular again after the September 11, 2001 attacks (becoming his highest charting pop hit, reaching No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100). He also has charted seven No. 1 hits 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 No. 53 on the Hot 100.
Greenwood was born in Los Angeles, California. 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. 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 (who had recently absorbed the Paramount label), and McFaden became his manager.The first single, "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 Rep, Brad Fitzgerald, among others. Lee Greenwood did not write Inside Out. It was written by Jan Crutchfield.He is best known for writing and recording "God Bless the USA" in the early 1980s. In 1995, he was featured with the song in the Warren Chaney docudrama, America: A Call to Greatness
. "God Bless the USA" gained renewed popularity following the launch of Operation: Desert Storm in 1991, and again, ten years later, following the September 11, 2001 attacks; in fact, the song 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.
Political views and advocacy
In November 2008, President George W. Bush appointed Greenwood to a six-year term to the National Council on the Arts. He is a Republican.
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.
Greenwood is married to former Miss Tennessee USA Kimberly Payne. They have two sons together. He has four children from a previous marriage.