The American Dream of attaining fame, wealth and success through hard work and by nurturing and harnessing innate talent is exemplified in the life and career of Lee Greenwood. Born on 27 October 1942, Lee Greenwood grew up in a chicken farm owned by his grandparents in Sacramento, California. At the outset, his musical talent was very evident, as he taught himself how to play the saxophone when he was seven and started playing with a western dance ensemble called My Moondreams by the time he was nine. After playing with different country and Dixieland bands, he joined Chester Smith’s band, and was later hired by country singer Del Reeves to play the saxophone during his stage performances.
In the early 1960s, he entered the Las Vegas casino scene playing pop music with his band, the Lee Greenwood Affair. When his band broke up in the 1970s, Lee made the rounds in lounges and casinos working as a singer by night and a blackjack dealer by day. The strain of years of exposure to a smoke-filled working environment took its toll on Lee’s vocal chords leaving him with a hoarse, husky voice that he turned into an asset.
Discovered by bandleader Larry McFaden in 1979, Lee Greenwood was signed in under the MCA label in 1981. His first single, “It Turns Me Inside Out,” which Lee sang in his exaggerate vibrato broke into the Top 20 chart. His second single, “Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands” started a string of singles that broke into the Top Ten charts, seven of which garnered the number one spot.
After only two years, Lee Greenwood won the Country Music Association’s Award for Best Male Vocalist of the Year and earned the same award during the next two years as well as a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. While he has tucked under his belt 3 gold and a platinum album, his greatest achievement was the CMA Song of the Year Award for “God Bless America,” which he composed and sang in 1985 and rose to the charts during the Persian Gulf Wars in 1991. Following the 9/11 attacks a decade later, his “God Bless America” single gained renewed popularity and re-entered the Top 20 Billboard chart. Meanwhile, while his “American Patriot” album was certified gold in October of 2001 and quickly became platinum by the end of the year.
During those turbulent and trying years, Lee Greenwood was in the forefront of celebrities that traveled with the USO to the Middle East to entertain and boost the morale of U.S. troops. A Republican supporter, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Council of the Arts and has earned the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award and a Points of Light Foundation Award.