Lee Greenwood Biography

Melvin Lee Greenwood, 27 October 1942, Southgate, California, USA. Because of his parents’ divorce, Greenwood was brought up by his grandparents in Sacramento, California, but he inherited their musical talent (his mother played piano and his father woodwind). In his teens, he played in various bands in Sacramento and Los Angeles and was even part of a dixieland jazz band at Disneyland. He played saxophone for country star Del Reeves and then formed his own band, Apollo, which found work in Las Vegas in 1962. He turned down an opportunity to join the Young Rascals and for many years he was arranging and playing music for bands in casinos (and working as a blackjack dealer by day). The environment narrowed his vocal range and he developed a husky-voiced approach to ballads similar to Kenny Rogers.

In 1979, Greenwood’s career took a major step forward when he was heard by Larry McFaden of Mel Tillis’ band, who became his manager. His first MCA single, ‘It Turns Me Inside Out’, was a US Top 20 country hit in 1981. This was followed by several other hits including two number 1s, ‘Somebody’s Gonna Love You’ and ‘Going, Going, Gone’. His songs were also recorded by several other performers including Kenny Rogers who found success with ‘A Love Song’. In 1984 he recorded an album with Barbara Mandrell and they made the US country charts with ‘To Me’ and he recorded his own patriotic song, ‘God Bless The USA’, which won the Country Music Association’s Song Of The Year. His other number 1 country singles are ‘Dixie Road’, ‘I Don’t Mind The Thorns (If You’re The Rose)’, ‘Don’t Underestimate My Love For You’, ‘Hearts Aren’t Made To Break (They’re Made To Love)’, and the sensual ‘Mornin’ Ride’. He has won numerous country awards and a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, and is known as the original performer of ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’.

Greenwood switched labels to Capitol Records, but this was not enough to stop the decline of his career during the 90s. He subsequently concentrated on performing at his own theatre in Sevierville, Tennessee, while continuing to release the occasional album of new material. ‘God Bless The USA’ enjoyed a chart revival in the wake of the terrorist attacks in America on 11 September 2002.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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