Lee Greenwood, who will perform at inaugural events this week for President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, suggested that those who turn down the chance will later regret missing the opportunity.
He said that he had not heard that Jennifer Holliday, announced as a performer at the opening concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday, backed out of the appearance on Saturday, citing the negative reaction she got on social media.
“She is going to regret not going in the future,” Greenwood said. “You don’t get this invitation very often.”
He added, “To say no — I can’t imagine the embarrassment she might have later on” for passing it up.
He called it a “thrill” to witness the peaceful transition of power, at an event that he said was unique in the world. “You need to support him and all the things he plans to do for America, and not bow down to what is said on social media and gossip. I feel sorry for people who would turn down this invitation.”
He said that a few people had sent him comments through his website urging him not to perform, but that paled next to the words of support.
“I live here in a rural community in Nashville and I frequent a lot of local places and people see me as a guy in the neighborhood,” he said. “No one comes up to me and says, ‘Why are you going? Why are you singing for the president?'”
He said that he plans to sing the hit standard that he wrote, “God Bless the USA.”
“I am thrilled to do it,” he said. He added that he is being paid for expenses but is receiving no compensation.
He is also booked to perform at an event for Pence on Wednesday night. Greenwood previously performed at inaugurations for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
He said he does not know Trump well, but his wife, Kimberly Payne, has worked with him. She is a former Miss Tennessee USA and executive director of Miss Tennessee USA and Miss Tennessee Teen USA. Trump was owner of the Miss Universe Organization, which licenses the network of pageants, up until 2015.
Greenwood said that he was in favor of Trump’s election, but did not campaign for him. Trump’s campaign team used “God Bless the USA” on the trail, and Greenwood said he “had no trouble with that.”
He did not want to comment on the backlash over some of Trump’s statements, including the president-elect’s pushback at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). Trump tweeted that Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk – no action or results” after Lewis told “Meet the Press” that he did not think that Trump was a legitimate president.
“I am not going to comment on that,” Greenwood said of Trump’s comments. “Nobody’s perfect. He may regret something along the way.”
He added that “everybody says something they probably regret. But let’s put all that behind us and move on.”
He pointed to criticism of Trump he finds unwarranted. He said that “all the talk that Trump wasn’t good to women is a bunch of crap,” and he cited Trump’s record of hiring women at his businesses.
Greenwood thinks this inauguration is different because Trump is an outsider, a billionaire and businessman, and because of the influence that social media had on the election.
“During the election he used Twitter to his advantage,” he said. Although that has been an effective form of communication, particularly with young people, “I think that will probably go away, at least I hope so. I don’t think it is safe, particularly [when] you are talking about different agencies and the safety of our country. But that is a decision he will have to make.”
Asked what advice he had for performers who have not done an inaugural, Greenwood said, “Live the moment. It is kind of what the athletes do at the Super Bowl. It will be a moment that they just have to bathe in.”
He also said that performers have to “remember what you have to do — and do it with eloquence.”
Photo: Webster Public Relations.