Think country singer Lee Greenwood, and you likely think “God Bless the USA.” The song Greenwood wrote on a bus 40 years ago was a hit soon after it was released in 1984, but it’s become even more popular over time.

“USA” — as Greenwood refers to it in shorthand — was widely played during the Gulf War and after the terror attacks of 9/11. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in July 2020, and it’s been sung at presidential inaugurations and at naturalization ceremonies across the country.

Now, it’s associated with a Bible, one being sold on Greenwood’s website.

The Bible is the King James version, with a twist: It contains hand-written lyrics to the chorus of the song, as well as the text of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Pledge of Allegiance. It is, according to Greenwood, a natural combination to have the founding documents packaged with the Bible, but not everyone agrees.

In 2021, according to reporting in Religion Unplugged, talks with Christian publishing house Zondervan to produce a “God Bless the USA” Bible on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 fell apart after an online petition circulated, saying that such a Bible would be a “toxic mix” that would fuel “Christian nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiments found in many segments of the evangelical church.”

Greenwood, however, dismissed those objections, telling Deseret recently, “That’s all part of the ‘cancel culture’ when you are promoting the word of God.” The project had struggled to get off the ground last year because of supply chain issues and “woke” companies that hindered production, a website promoting the Bible said last year. But it’s back, and selling for $59.99 on Greenwood’s website.

Last week, the musician spoke with Deseret from his home in Nashville as he was wrapping up his annual holiday tour. At 81, Greenwood is not traveling as much as he did decades ago when he was a regular part of holiday USO tours. But he’s still performing and recording and hopes to have the chance to perform at another presidential inauguration in 2025 if Donald Trump is reelected.

He spoke with Deseret about the genesis of the song, his marriage of 31 years, his support for Trump and what he wishes everyone would do in the days leading up to Christmas. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Deseret News: What was the genesis of the “God Bless the USA” Bible?

Lee Greenwood: My wife and I have been married 31 years now, and we are steady Christians — I’m a conservative Christian, if you will — and we both have Bibles. We were talking with people who had recently become citizens, and we invited them over for dinner, and they noticed the Bible we have on our coffee table. It’s a family Bible that has the history of your family tree, and they were curious about it, and I said, it goes back a long way, it goes back almost to the beginning of America, and a light kind of went on at that point.

I went to my team, and I went to my pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church and asked his opinion, and he said, “I don’t see anything wrong with that.” We also included the hand-written lyrics for the chorus of “God Bless the USA.” I thought that was appropriate as well. You have to remember, the song is played in the film people see when they become U.S. citizens … all of the people who have become citizens over the past 15 or 16 years know “God Bless the USA” as an American anthem. Isn’t that kind of cool?

DNThis song was written on a bus, right? Can you tell us a little bit how you came to write it? 

LG: While I was working in Nevada — this is a sidebar, but important — Elvis was in the main room, and many nights, I would slip off after our sets and watch him finish his show, and he did the “(American) Trilogy,” which I was very moved by. People don’t know this, but Elvis was very reverent; a lot of people don’t know that; if you want to know about that, get a hold of T.G. Sheppard and let him tell you about Elvis and the Bible every night.

So I finished my tenure in Nevada, and I kind of got it in the back of my mind, I’m going to do the “Trilogy” to close my show; somebody else should do that. Along the way, after three different albums — all successful, riding high — I was in my tour bus, we had finished some show in Arkansas and were headed for Texas, and we passed some soldiers who had broken down and stopped and talked to them. And I started thinking, as a citizen of America, I need to do something to help America feel united.

We were doing 300 days on the road a year, during those early days. There was no getting to Nashville to sit down and do songwriting. So I wrote in my bus — I’d already written several hit songs in my bus, including one for Kenny Rogers and one for Mel Tillis. And I was like, you know what? Maybe I should write America’s song.

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The first time we put that song on stage, the audience was moved; we had hit the target. But “USA” was never meant to be a single. It was on an album called “You’ve Got a Good Love Comin’” and Universal Records made the call and said have “USA” as a single first. My producer and I were not really on the same page about that; I was concerned that it would take us out of the direction we were going. We were releasing ballads that really resonated with the public; there was no reason to go against that. When Universal said I should release a patriotic song, I was like, I don’t know, this could kill my career. So, lo and behold, it did not. 

DN: That definitely didn’t happen. And you went on to release an album of patriotic songs, “American Patriot.” Since then, however, in some circles, “patriot” seems to be becoming a bad word.

LG: Not in Utah, I wouldn’t think. You may know more about this than I do, because I don’t follow media a lot. I’m certainly not on TikTok, although you have to do Instagram.

DN: It’s mostly because of its association with Donald Trump.

LG: Well, that’s too bad because I’m all in for President Trump, and I will work the campaign again this year. I think he was great for America as a president, and I certainly hope he gets in the White House again. That’s my point of view.

My wife, who was a pageant director for Miss USA, worked for him for 21 years, so I knew Donald Trump from that era. But when Trump decided to run for president and use “God Bless the USA” as his anthem, we did not have any conversations about it; we just let it happen, and I did sing for him several times, including at his inauguration. I sang at President (George H.W.) Bush’s — 41 — inauguration as well, at the same spot, at the Lincoln Memorial. For two presidents, at the same spot, 12 years apart.

DN: You have said you were raised by your grandparents. Were they the reason you became a Christian? 

LG: My grandparents sent me to church; they didn’t take me to church. I don’t even know if they were Christians. I left home at 16 and, regretfully, did not go back and have that discussion. I think, (they knew) we need morals, we need fences, and certainly for me, I needed faith. And I got plenty of that. Brimstone and hollering from the pastor; it nearly scared me to death. 

But I remember singing “O Holy Night” for the first time in church when I was like 14, and I loved the music; I sang with the choir whenever I could — I was different because I was a working musician. But I loved it. 

DN: Throughout your career, you performed many USO Christmas shows with Bob Hope and others, and you do your own holiday shows. Do you have a favorite Christmas song? 

LG: I think I did 12 USO tours at Christmas; we gave up our Christmas for the soldiers. And it was always a special moment when we did “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

I hope that people get the Christmas spirit, because it’s giving. And even if it’s just a moment in the days leading up to Christmas, go to a police station, go to a firehouse, grab some friends and go sing a couple of carols. Do something that makes your heart light.

DN: Are you going to continue to record and tour for the foreseeable future?

LG: My background is R&B (rhythm and blues) and soul, and I may record an R&B album. I’ve toured for the last 40 years. I’ve had some medical issues — I recently had rotator cuff surgery on my shoulder for the second time in 25 years. Although I’m physically fit and feel good and my voice is still great, I have two sons who deserve my time, as does my wife. … If I said next year may be my last one, that’s not a firm answer. For instance, if President Trump wins the election, I would be at his command. That would bring me into more years yet.