Attacks bring swell of patriotic songs

By PETER COOPER
Staff Writer

As the world's chief exporter of country music, Nashville has learned that the aftermath of the terror attacks creates a tough business environment.

Country radio programmers reshuffled playlists, and musicians, record companies and publicists are walking a thin line between offering consumers fittingly patriotic music and appearing inappropriately self-serving.

Radio has responded to the surge of national spirit by programming patriotic material, but the favored songs have been from established artists.

That's despite a flood of new ''special releases,'' many of which pledge some proceeds to victim relief funds, arriving on the desks of radio executives and music critics and hoping to become the next God Bless the USA.

''We've gotten literally hundreds of songs,'' said Mike Moore, program director at WSIX-FM. ''We're doing everything we can to listen to what comes in.''

Among the hundreds is Freedom, a quickly released CD from native Canadian and current Nashvillian Joni Wilson. The disc's cover depicts an American flag, and the Red Cross will receive all proceeds after Wilson recoups production costs.

The song was written well before the attacks, and its lyrics marry a somewhat patriotic chorus to less overtly applicable verses (''Can't wait for you to come back again / And do that thing you do''). The disc, sold at Tower Records' West End Avenue location and through Wilson's Web site, also carries a version that includes words from recent news broadcasts.

Moore has heard and played Freedom, but he isn't planning to add the song to WSIX's rotation. But Wilson said other stations in Nashville, Detroit, Philadelphia and other cities are spinning the single.

''It's the weirdest thing,'' she said. ''I feel almost guilty in a way. For me, personally, it has kicked my nice, powerful little team (of industry cohorts) into gear. They're shopping my deal immediately now.

''So it's a bittersweet thing. It's bitter because of the circumstances that make people need the song, but sweet also to know that I've got something to offer. And the only way I wanted to promote this is if the money could go to the Red Cross.''

Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA became a hit in the mid-'80s, during a time of relative peace, then reappeared on playlists during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, it was back on the airwaves. God Bless the USA is again one of the most played country songs in America, residing in the Top 25 of Billboard's country singles chart. The song also is being heavily downloaded from MP3.com, and Greenwood's Web site is getting much heavier traffic than usual.

''I'm hurt, like every American, by the attack,'' said Greenwood, who has been jetting around the country in the past two weeks, singing the song in concerts, at sporting events and even at the site of the New York attacks.

''They don't call it 'Ground Zero.' They call it 'The Pile.' There's a ship there, where people eat, and I went there to shake hands. That didn't work out very well at first. These people were tired, and they'd been there for weeks without pulling any new people out, and they were kind of eating with their heads down. I wasn't getting much done.

''Then I stood up on the third deck and began to sing, with no microphone or megaphone. I knew that I could move them with my song.''

Greenwood has performed God Bless the USA through times of ease and crisis, in nearly every one of his concerts since 1983.

''I'm not reveling in the success of a piece of material that makes me money,'' he said. ''This thing (the attack) hit me like a sledgehammer. And if people want to hear God Bless the USA, then I want to sing it. If people are moved by it, I'm moved as well.''

As Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn says, things that seemed corny three weeks ago now bring tears to people's eyes.

Aaron Tippin's Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly has been rushed to radio, and it made its debut at No. 34 on the Billboard country singles chart. Tippin, whose You've Got To Stand For Something was a popular anthem during the Gulf War, wrote the song 2 years ago with Kenny Beard and Casey Beathard, and recorded it Sept. 15-16. Tippin sang the song yesterday on Country Music Television's Most Wanted Live, and a CMT video was recorded during that appearance.

Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly will be in stores Oct. 2, with a rerecorded version of You've Got To Stand for Something included as the ''B'' side. All of Tippin's proceeds will go to the Red Cross.

''Aaron didn't want to make a dime from this,'' said his publicist, Lisa Bell. ''He waived everything.''

Other timely country songs include a multi-artist version of America the Beautiful, Faith Hill's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and David Ball's Riding With Private Malone, a ghost story about a soldier. Charlie Daniels is hoping radio will take kindly to an updated version of his 21-year-old In America.

Brooks & Dunn's Only in America got substantial radio play before Sept. 11, and the duo opened all of the past summer's concerts with it.

''It's totally different, playing that song now,'' Brooks said. ''After the attack, we thought about canceling. You know, just taking the time to be quiet. We're as devastated as everybody else is about this, and the last thing in the world you want to do is look like you're trying to capitalize on a tragedy.

''But then we decided that maybe there were a lot of people interested in going out and sharing and listening to music. We opened with Only in America, and the response was just incredible. Everyone's looking for a flag to wave right now, and everybody