Country music legend Lee Greenwood is set to call it quits after more than 40 years in the music industry.
Greenwood – a Grammy award-winning artist most known for his signature song “God Bless the U.S.A.” – confirmed he would be retiring at the end of his 2024 tour during a podcast interview with 17-year-old Brilyn Hollyhand, a co-chair of the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) youth advisory council.
“There are rumors of you potentially retiring at the end of 2024. Are those rumors true?” Hollyhand, the editor-in-chief of The Truth Gazette and host of “The Brilyn Hollyhand Show“ podcast, asked Greenwood prior to his Nov. 9 concert in Montgomery, Alabama.
“It’s not just a rumor. It will be my last year to tour,” Greenwood responded, though he and his team have yet to decide on where he will deliver his final performance.
Unlike other artists who have announced retirements in the past, Greenwood said his final performances won’t be “one of those farewell and then come back next year” types of tours.
Greenwood, who turned 81 last month, said he’s looking to retire to spend more time with his family as he grows older and pointed to certain health factors that moved him to make the decision.
“I just turned 81. This is a factor. I’ve had some surgeries. I have titanium knees, I have a titanium cage in my back with 10 screws…. I just I don’t think I can do this much longer with the two boys in college,” Greenwood said, explaining his decision to retire from the industry.
The singer also noted the importance of spending time with his wife of 31 years, former Miss Tennessee USA Kimberly Payne, saying “she has yet to have my total time.”
“It’s only fair, I think, that I back away at this point and have no distractions but her and I and give these last few years that I will live to her and my two sons,” he added. “So that’s a big decision, and I know it is.”
In a message to those who have supported him throughout his career, Greenwood said, “I’m so grateful for the years that they come to my shows continually.”
“Here I am at the end of my career, and they still come, and they still hear me sing the same 40 songs that I’ve sang for 40 years,” Greenwood told Hollyhand with a laugh.
Named one of the top 100 artists of all time by Billboard Magazine, Greenwood rose to prominence in the 1980s following the release of his first single, “It Turns Me Inside Out,” which topped out at No. 17 on the country music charts. That song was followed up by Greenwood with the release of several other Top 10 hits, including “Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hand,” “IOU” and “She’s Lying.”
In 1983, Greenwood released his first No. 1 hit, which was titled “Somebody’s Gonna Love You.”
One year later, in 1984, Greenwood released “God Bless the U.S.A.,” a song meant to unite Americans. He wrote it in the back of his tour bus in 1983.
“‘USA’ is the song I always felt the need to write,” Greenwood said of the hit in 2013. “I wanted to have something that would unite Americans from coast to coast. I wanted to instill pride back in the United States. The song represents my family, my community and those men and women who have paid the price for the freedoms we all love and enjoy.”
Originally released in the spring of 1984, Greenwood’s patriotic song was later used in a film about former President Ronald Reagan that was shown at the Republican National Convention that year.
Greenwood’s work has received a wide variety of praise throughout the years and has been supported in recent history by several prominent politicians.
“God Bless the U.S.A.” has become a cornerstone of former President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies across the country and is often played over the loudspeakers as the president takes the stage. The record was also played at a number of White House events and gatherings during Trump’s tenure in office.
In 2019, Trump appointed Greenwood to serve on the board of trustees at the Kennedy Center.
Greenwood was also appointed by former President George W. Bush to join the National Council on the Arts in 2008, but was replaced by President Biden’s administration in 2021.
Greenwood, who said he learned of the replacement through an email, said he was “shocked” about it during a September 2021 appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
“You know, it’s a six-year appointment and I was appointed by George W. Bush 43. So I served under his term. Also, President Obama’s term. Of course, President Trump’s term. And then as you know he used my song ‘God Bless the USA,’ which is unilateral for me. It’s meant for all people, not just for a particular political party,” he added at the time.