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Dierks Bentley and Hunter Hayes Salute Lee Greenwood's Patriotic Classic "God Bless the U.S.A."

Image courtesy of Webster PR (via ABC News Radio)
Image courtesy of Webster PR (via ABC News Radio)

It's been nearly 30 years since Lee Greenwood wrote "God Bless the U.S.A.," but the patriotic anthem will still be blaring from car radios and accompanying fireworks displays across the country again this Fourth of July.  Dierks Bentley is just one of the country stars still drawn to "God Bless the U.S.A." even though he's heard it at patriotic events his entire life.

"That song comes on the radio, and my immediate reaction is to immediately, like, turn the channel 'cause I've heard it so many times," Dierks explains.  "By the time my hand goes from the steering wheel to the radio dial, like, I've already, instead of switching it, I'm turning it up, 'cause it sucks you right in."

Hunter Hayes calls "God Bless the U.S.A." a standard in his book.  He marvels at how hard it is to write a good patriotic song like that, saying, "Those are always gonna be a favorite because they have more of an emotional place in your heart, right?  'Cause they are rare.  And because they are rare, they're special."

Lee wrote the lyrics to "God Bless the U.S.A." based on his family's real-life experiences, which may help explain the song's endurance.  That personal touch begins with the song's very first line, "If tomorrow all the things were gone I'd worked for all my life."

Lee says, "It's about being a farmer.  My grandparents raised me on a farm in Sacramento, CA, and when the economy got so bad, they couldn't keep hold of their farm, that's what that line meant."

Of course, "God Bless the U.S.A." includes the line, "I won't forget the men who died," a line that gets a lot of attention from Lee's younger fans, including his own son.

"My 18-year-old son just graduated high school, and when he was about six, [he asked,] 'What does it mean when you wrote about the men who died?'" Lee recalls. "I said, "Those who've sacrificed for our freedom, who mean so much to us.  We could never forget about those."

Fans of "God Bless the U.S.A." may be interested to know the song is partly inspired by Elvis Presley .  Lee performed at the Las Vegas Hilton in the '70s at the same time Elvis was working the main room.  The two performers got to know each other a little bit, and Lee was taken with Elvis's patriotic medley, "An American Trilogy."  Instead of just covering the song outright once he became a country star, Lee decided to write his own patriotic anthem in 1983.  That's how "God Bless the U.S.A." was born.

An exhibit highlighting Lee Greenwood and his classic song is now open at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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