I was six the first time Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” gave me goosebumps.
It was the early ’90s; the county was in the throes of Operation Desert Storm and many of my first-grade classmates in our Midwest, Air Force base-flanked town had parents or relatives with boots on the ground. I remember an unsettling sense of unease my child-sized American heart couldn’t quite understand—and the first stirrings of patriotism awakened by Greenwood’s lyrics.
Decades later, America is smack dab in the middle of the uncertainty and unrest that is 2020. It’s a different sort of battlefield, to be sure.
The song still gives me chills.
This week, Greenwood released a brand new a cappella version of “God Bless the U.S.A.”—a collaboration with the country vocal group Home Free and the Air Force Singing Sergeants.
The rendition is nothing short of incredible:
There’s something about that melody—those lyrics—that gets me right in the red, white, and blue part of my heart.
And I’m not the only one—Home Free‘s Rob Lundquist tweeted the video this week, saying, “It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.”
Today we’re premiering God Bless The USA with @TheLeeGreenwood and the U.S. Air Force Band! It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, join us over on @HomeFreeGuys’ YouTube today a little before Noon Central and I’ll be over there chatting with folks.https://t.co/r1SJ73uVtk pic.twitter.com/HgxEimaK94
— Rob Lundquist (@RobLundquist) July 1, 2020
Home Free vocalist Austin Brown told American Songwriter the song is near and dear to the group’s heart, so being able to create this version during such an unprecedented time in the nation was rewarding. “We closed the show for probably 15 years straight with this song. Now we save it for special occasions or if we do a function for veterans or that sort of thing. It’s almost like a secondary national anthem for this country,” he told the publication. “When we sing this song, everyone in the audience, no matter where we are in this country, everyone stands up. It’s one of those songs that’s gonna be here forever. It’s going to be in the American culture forever. And the opportunity to do this with a legend like Lee Greenwood, the original artist, the guy who wrote this song, it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Greenwood told American Songwriter that as a child, he watched the grandparents who raised him on a California farm lose everything, and that experience inspired the opening lines of the song:
If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life,
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife.
I’d thank my lucky stars,
To be living here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
And they can’t take that away.
“And it’s very similar to today. The magnitude is so far-reaching, it’s almost unbelievable. With no shows during the Fourth of July weekend, not since I was 12 have I been told I can’t work. And I’m afraid to work because I’m at risk. It’s just a really weird time. I wrote my lyrics specifically to be timeless. I had no idea that they’d be applicable at such a critical juncture,” he said.
Austin added, “It’s a song that transcends time and has the potential to bring us all together. Because the words speak to something that everyone can relate to if you just open your heart to it, regardless of your political, religious, ethical, or moral beliefs.”
This little girl-turned-grown-up is nodding along with her hand over her heart and joining the chorus: God bless the U.S.A.!