'God Bless America' CD debuts at No. 1 on album charts; latest patriotic hit

Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2001

NEW YORK -- Americans are showing their patriotism in record stores.

''God Bless America,'' an album featuring Celine Dion's much-praised rendition of the song, is the nation's best-selling album, according to figures released Wednesday.

The disc, which Columbia Records touts as ''a collection of songs of hope, freedom and inspiration,'' also includes Frank Sinatra's ''America the Beautiful,'' Mariah Carey's ''Hero,'' Tramaine Hawkins' ''Amazing Grace'' and Pete Seeger's ''This Land Is Your Land.''

The album sold 180,984 copies in its first week to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's top 200 album charts.

And it's not the only patriotic hit on the charts.

The re-release of Whitney Houston's ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' is a best-selling single, and Lee Greenwood's ''American Patriot'' album sales have surged based on the popularity of his 17-year-old hit, ''God Bless the U.S.A.''

''It's hard to think of a time in the last 20 to 30 years where there has been such a wide embrace of patriotism,'' said Geoff Mayfield, charts director at Billboard magazine.

Not only has patriotic music surged in popularity, but more contemplative, inspirational tunes.

New Age singer Enya's ''Day Without Rain,'' which had been out for almost a year before the attacks and was No. 20 before Sept. 11, is now the nation's No. 2 album. The spike in sales has been fueled by the popularity of her ''Only Time,'' which some radio stations put in heavy rotation in the days after the attacks.

''It kind of became the song to soothe after all that ugliness,'' said Mayfield.

''If radio is doing what radio is supposed to do, it will reflect a change of mood,'' he added. ''And certainly there has been a change of mood as a result of what happened that day.''

Besides Enya, others who have seen their songs soar after the attacks include Enrique Iglesias (''Hero'') and Five For Fighting (''Superman'').

John Ondrasik, who constitutes the one-man act Five for Fighting, said even before the attacks, he saw that the song had been used by people going through their own particular crisis.

What has made the song particularly relevant now, he says, is that so many of us saw ''ordinary people that we walk by every day ... perform superhuman feats, so we saw the best in ourselves.

''So I think that's why people are using 'Superman' to pay tribute to these unbelievable people,'' said Ondrasik, whose debut album is titled ''America Town.''

Another song moving up the charts is ''What's Going On,'' an all-star remake of Marvin Gaye's classic that originally was intended to benefit for Africa's famine victims, but now also is benefiting the terror attack victims.

More benefit albums are on the way -- a double-disc set of last week's all-star Concert for New York, featuring Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, the Who, Billy Joel and others is scheduled for release next month.

Also on tap: Michael Jackson's ''What More Can I Give,'' a ''We Are the World''-type song. Jackson sang it last weekend at the United We Stand benefit in Washington.

Both the ''God Bless America'' disc and the Houston single have allocated some or all of its proceeds toward charities tied to the terrorist attacks. The Houston song has raised $1 million so far, an Arista Records spokesperson said.

The renewed interest in the genre is encouraging to singer James Rogers, who has been singing such songs for years.

''Now, they seem to be more receptive, whereas before, they would play them on Fourth of July or Memorial Day or Veterans Day,'' said Rogers, whose new album is titled ''Red White and Beautiful.''

Rogers hopes the interest won't be fleeting.

''I think it's a good thing that we're feeling proud of who we are and what we are,'' he said. ''but it is bad that it took a national tragedy for it to happen.''

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