Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

TOP STORY >> Greenwood sings Smith’s praises

Greenwood belts out one of his hits Saturday at Veterans Park Community Center in Cabot.

By RICK KRON

Leader staff writer

Country music icon Lee Greenwood, who wrote and sings “God Bless the USA,” was humbled during a sound check before his Cabot performance Saturday.

Greenwood spoke and performed at the Veterans Park Community Center in support of Princella Smith, a young, gifted black Republican candidate for the First District congressional seat held by retiring Democrat Marion Berry.

Greenwood, who has more than 20 albums to his credit and has been in the entertainment business for more than 30 years, told the small but enthusiastic crowd that two young ladies were in the community center watching and listening as he was doing his sound check. As he was leaving, he said hello to them and one of the girls screamed that she loved his music.

“I especially love that one song you do, ‘Ahab the Arab,’” the young girl told him.

He just smiled and thanked her.

“Wrong guy and busted my bubble,” Greenwood told the audience.

Greenwood told the group—which included Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, running for the Dist. 28 state Senate seat, and mayoral candidates Eddie Cook and Bill Cypert—that although he’s performed in Arkansas many times, Saturday was his first visit to Cabot.

“But what’s funny, just before I got the call to come out here, my wife was watching a show on the Food Channel about the great food and the shut-up sauce at the Mean Pig in Cabot, Arkansas. So when I got here, I asked our driver to take my son and me to the Mean Pig Barbecue,” Greenwood said.

“When we got there, the line was long and out the door, and they were out of ribs. But I still wanted to try some of their shut-up hot sauce that was featured on the show,” the singer said.

Greenwood said his son Parker had a small taste first. “For the next 15 minutes, he ran around like an ant on an ant pile that had been stepped on,” Greenwood continued. “I didn’t think it could possibly be that hot, so I had some and ran for the water fountain screaming for someone to call the fire department.”

Smith, 26, is a native of Wynne. She is a former congressional aide who has worked for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s think tank, American Solutions for Winning the Future, becoming the voice that repeated his slogan promoting drilling for oil in Alaska, “drill here, drill now, pay less.”

That job gave her national media attention with regular TV appearances, where she debated energy experts and Democratic strategists.

In 2009, Smith went to work as communications director for freshman Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana, but she resigned earlier this year when Berry announced he would not seek re-election.

Like many country entertainers, Greenwood is a strong conservative. Like many people, he started out on the liberal side when he was younger, he said.

“But you reach a point, somewhere between your 20s and 40s, where you see what is important and get conservative,” said the California native.

Greenwood said, “I worked with Reagan in California when I was a nobody.”

He told the Cabot crowd that he was raised on a farm and was proud to be a redneck. “It’s not about shotguns and pickup trucks,” Greenwood said. “Rednecks are just hard, blue-collar workers. The term came from people working hard in the sun and getting red necks, and I got plenty working on the farm.”

He said he wished he could instill those tough working times on his sons. “I wished they lived on a farm instead of that modest $2 million home in Nashville,” he quipped.

Turning his comments to the political climate, Greenwood said the chance for change was “right under our feet. But you have to take it personally and get involved, but it’s not that hard. Just vote for the right people.”

Because Greenwood is passionate about politics, he has been asked many times to consider running for office. “Not me,” he said. “I’ve got more skeletons in my closet than an archaeologist.”

Greenwood came to Cabot to support Smith and spread the conservative message through a mutual friend.

“My friend in Tennessee called and asked what she could do to help me. I kiddingly said a country star would be nice. She asked, how about Lee Greenwood?”

“I said, the icon himself, wow, yes!” Smith explained.

Smith said, “Greenwood is a really nice guy who truly believes in the words of his songs like ‘God Bless the USA.’”

Greenwood said that when he wrote that song in 1983, he felt the country was moving apart and wanted everyone to know that no matter where they lived or what they did or who they were that “we were all one country.”

Even though Greenwood is not a fan of the Obama administration or the direction it is taking the country, he told the Cabot gathering that “yes, we will rise again.”

The singer said the problem wasn’t necessarily liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican or those seeking change versus those who want things to remain the same.

“There is plenty of middle ground, but we need common-sense people in office are passionate about America, about keeping this country great,” he said, reiterating that Smith was one of those people who had that passion.

Before the Cabot show, Smith and Greenwood were at the Little Rock home of the late Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller for a fundraiser.

Smith said her passion for public service came from Rockefeller. She went to work for him by mere chance when she was 17.

“He was always asking, what can I do to make something better?” she said. “That philosophy stuck with me. He made me want to go out and become and a better person and help others.”

Smith, who graduated from Ouachita Baptist, some people question her youth and whether she’s old enough. “The Constitution says 25, and I’m 26, so yes, I’m old enough.”

She said she is about Arkansas and America first. “It’s not about my party, it’s about the people. What I can do to make it better for Americans, for Arkansans?”

Smith said that during the campaign she would focus on education, the economy and illegal immigration. “And let me tell you I am pro-life, I support the Second Amendment, believe marriage is between a man and a woman and believe English should be the official language of the government. It’s a national-security issue.”

Smith said to win, she’ll need the support of both parties. “That means I’ll already have bipartisan backing when I get to Washington.”

Running against Smith on the Republican side is Rick Crawford. The Democratic candidates include state Sen. Steve Bryles, state Rep. David Cook, former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge, Chad Causey (Berry’s chief of staff), Terry Green and Ben Ponder.