As America (fuck yeah!) prepares to celebrate its 234th birthday over the long July 4 weekend, our proud yet troubled nation is about to be inundated once again by Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." About as innocuous as a song can be on the surface, it's become one of the most polarizing tunes of the past 30 years - for every person who thinks it's a stirring expression of patriotism and America's core values, someone else thinks it's trite, shallow and more than a little jingoistic.
To be fair, those people may not have heard Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Red White & Blue (Love It or Leave)" or the Charlie Daniels' Band's "This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag." And personally, Rocks Off has always thought "God Bless the USA" is pretty bland. But how much do you - does anyone - really know about what more than one person has (seriously) called our "unofficial national anthem"? Rocks Off figured it was our patriotic duty to find out.
1. Written by Greenwood, "God Bless the USA" was originally released on his 1983 album You've Got a Good Love Comin'. One story is that Greenwood wrote it to honor the Americans who were killed when Korean Airlines Flight 007 was shot down, but he told country-music Web site The Boot earlier this year "I wanted to write it my whole life."
2. The song was a modest hit upon its release, reaching No. 7 on Billboard's country chart in 1984. Greenwood performed it at that year's Republican National Convention in Dallas.
3. Greenwood chose Houston, one of four cities mentioned by name in the song (Detroit, New York and Los Angeles are the others), to reflect the oil industry's importance to the national economy.
4. The song began to take on its current status during the first Gulf War. Shortly before the U.S.-led coalition's invasion of Iraqi-occupied Kuwait in 1990, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf played it for his senior advisors. "[It's] a blatantly chauvinistic piece of music (chuckle), but I think it characterized the pride that all of us have in our profession," he told PBS' Frontline.
5. "God Bless the USA" was re-released as a single less than a month after the September 11 attacks, on Oct. 9, 2001. This time it reached No. 16 on both the Billboard country chart and Hot 100.
6. It has led to at least one fistfight. When a recording of the song was played at the 2003 Houston Livestock & Rodeo, a man demanded some people sitting near him stand up to pay their respects. When they didn't, he began cursing and spitting at them, told them to "go back to Iraq" and poured a beer over one of their heads. The ensuing brawl led to both parties being cited for "mutual combat," a misdemeanor punishable by a $200 fine.
7. Beyonce performed the song during the pregame ceremonies for Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium on Feb. 1, 2004.
8. Greenwood later doctored a few of the lyrics and recorded the song as "God Bless Canada." ("There ain't no doubt I love this land/ God bless you, Canada"). Strangely enough, he hasn't gotten around to recording "God Bless Mexico" yet.
9. "God Bless the USA" has been parodied as, among others, "It Sucks to Be a Chinaman" by Ryan Hall & Carey Willis. In 2007, Rush Limbaugh aired a version called "We Hate the USA" on his radio show, featuring conservative comedian Paul Shanklin's impersonated voices of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Al Sharpton and Ted Kennedy.
10. The song was most recently in the news last month, when left-wing talk-radio host Ed Schulz called for a similar anthem to commemorate the BP oil spill. "Remember when every time we invaded an oil-rich country or any time there was any kind of confrontation, we were subjected to - ad nauseam, I might add - 'God Bless the USA.'"
Greenwood plays a private party at the Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, Miss., Saturday night. Rest assured "God Bless the USA" will be in the set list.
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