Country music icon Lee Greenwood praised his family and being surrounded by people with “real values” for helping him achieve a career most musicians can only dream about.
Greenwood was “humbled” to be the recipient of the Charlie Daniels Patriot Award, which was established by The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project and supports veterans in their return, rehabilitation and reintegration to civilian life.
The “God Bless the USA” singer credited life outside Hollywood norms for keeping him and his family focused on what matters most.
“When you talk about Hollywood stardom, actors really are acting scripts for someone else, and although they are revered by the public for the roles that they have, the luster of Hollywood kind of rubs off when you get outside of that area,” he exclusively told Fox News Digital. “I have been blessed to be able to be raised on a farm where real values count.
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“And even after spending 20 years in Nevada, and now 40 years in Tennessee, I am surrounded by people with real values. I think that has helped us as a family.
“And, of course, I have to give my wife so much more credit than me because she’s always been the one steadfast and keeps us morally on the correct path and a good moral compass.”
Greenwood has two sons, Dalton and Parker, with his wife of more than 30 years, Kimberly Payne, a former Miss Tennessee USA.
He said raising their boys outside the limelight has taught them to “have respect for our careers and respect for themselves, and that has helped us bond as a family.”
His sons told their dad they were proud of him and that he deserved the award.
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“That’s very flattering for them to say that, and we are very close,” he said. “I can talk man to man to both of our sons, who are now 28 and 25. But for them to say that I deserve it is such an honor for me to receive that kind of dialog from our two sons. And it means a great deal to me.”
Keeping the spark alive in his marriage is easy because Kim and Lee treat each other like royalty.
“When I met Kim for the very first time, I was so smitten and fell so hard that I think it was the deepest love I had ever experienced, and I think that’s the key,” he said. “If you really love someone, you can get over the high points and the low points and not necessarily be distracted by other things when the most important thing is taking care of your mate.
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“Kim has been so good to me, treating me like a king when, in fact, she is the queen. She was a queen when I met her, and in my life, she is my queen as well.”
Standing up for his family and his beliefs is something that comes naturally for Greenwood, who has battled cancel culture throughout his career primarily due to his hit song.
“I think you have to examine the lyrics of my song, ‘God Bless the USA,’ which is a catalyst for people who consider me on one side of the fence or the other. My song represents all Americans,” he said.
“Incidentally, I am a conservative Christian. However, when you talk about the presidents that I have sang for, which are on both sides of the aisle and more than 10 — two times for five different presidents in my presence — I think that the honor that I receive from just being a songwriter is really high cotton.
“I’m just a farmer from Sacramento who got lucky, and I consider my art important to me. So, to write a song that has moved the nation and also has uplifted the nation after a terrorist attack of 2001 is a great compliment, but it’s a great honor for me.”
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The “Somebody’s Gonna Love You” singer believes it’s “not right” and “not fair” other artists get attacked for singing about their own truths and freedom of expression.
“To a point, everyone is allowed to express their own opinion, and as an artist, I know that we do represent the culture with the music that we create,” he said. “But you can’t blame an artist for singing a song or writing a song that expresses a feeling of the fans that they sing for. And if the multitude of fans all agree that that song represents them, then the freedom of expression should be allowed by that artist and not attacked.”
Thinking back on simpler times, Lee reminisced about running into his buddy Charlie Daniels at gas stations across the country when their tour buses cross paths in the middle of the night.
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“We’ve known each other an awful long time,” he said of Daniels. “I consider him a very close friend before he passed on. When he would give me a hug, he’d give me a serious bear hug. And you’d never forget that (he) treated me with great respect.”
The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project is a nonprofit organization that assists other not-for-profits to secure funds to help causes that benefit veterans of the United States Armed Forces. The organization was co-founded in 2014 by the late country music legend and his manager, David Corlew.