Americans Tune Into Patriotic Music

By | September 20, 2001 at 12:00 AM

From the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee, across the plains of Texas and from sea to shining sea, Americans are storming record stores for patriotic music, like Lee Greenwood’s country standard “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Retailers said Wednesday that other in-demand artists include Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Ray Charles, Depression-era singer Kate Smith, and even Irish musicians U2 and Enya.

The use of particular songs on television and radio fueled demand, said Dawn Bryant, a spokeswoman at Best Buy Co. Inc. -owned Musicland Group Inc., parent of the Sam Goody music retail chain.

Greenwood’s Grammy-winning 1984 tune “God Bless the USA” reentered Billboard magazine’s country airplay chart at No. 16 after receiving 2,605 spins on country radio stations across the United States last week, up from just 47 spins the week before, a spokesman for Greenwood said.

Tracks by New Age chanteuse Enya and rock bands U2 and Live were used as background music on attack-related TV specials and news programs, boosting sales of the artists’ catalogs, Musicland’s Bryant said.

Springsteen albums also did well, including his bestselling 1984 opus “Born in the U.S.A.,” whose scathing title track about the mistreatment of America’s Vietnam War veterans has often been misinterpreted as a feelgood anthem.

The blue-collar rocker’s version of “We Shall Overcome,” from a 1998 tribute album to folk singer Pete Seeger, was also popular, said Louise Solomon, a spokeswoman for the closely held 106-store Tower Records chain.

Singer Kate Smith, whose 1938 recording of composer Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” is considered the definitive version, enjoyed some posthumous popularity as her 1999 album “The Voice of America” was snapped up, Solomon said.

Houston’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” originating from the 1991 SuperBowl telecast and found on her recent hits compilation, has been so huge that her Arista Records label is re-releasing it as a charity CD single.

Versions of “America the Beautiful,” written in the 1890s by Katharine Lee Bates, performed by the likes of Ray Charles and the Boston Pops Orchestra, also flew out of stores.

Industry-wide, sales of current albums jumped in the week ended Sept. 16, despite the closure of many stores on the day of the attacks and related distractions.

Data from music tracking firm SoundScan showed sales of the top 200 albums rose five percent over the previous week and by seven percent from the year-ago period. But overall sales, including catalog releases, were down about five percent from both periods, in line with the poor year for music sales.

The top 10 contained six new releases, including rapper Jay Z at No. 1 with “Blueprint” (Island Def Jam) and veteran rocker Bob Dylan with a career best debut at No. 5 with “Love and Theft” (Columbia). On the downside, pop singer Mariah Carey’s Virgin Records debut “Glitter” bowed at No. 7 with sales that were 64 percent lower than the first-week tally for her previous studio release on Columbia.

Island Def Jam Music Group is a unit of Vivendi Universal. Columbia Records is a unit of Sony Corp. Virgin Records is a unit of EMI Group Plc.

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