Performer Thanks Veterans for His Success

July 17, 2023
Country singer Ricky Lee, second from the left, poses with veteran Leon Key. Courtesy photo from VA Bedford Health Care System

Ricky Lee has performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at National Football League games. He was recruited by the White House to compose a song marking the 18th anniversary of the Gulf War, and presented it to the ambassador from Kuwait as a gift from the United States.

He also has driven through three states in his SUV to get to the next gig. “That’s the business I’m in,” he said.

Lee delivered a one-hour set to a crowd of about 200, primarily patients, family members, and staff, at the VA Hospital on Springs Road – now known as the VA Bedford Health Care System.

Scores of Lee’s live performances are for veterans’ groups, including hospitals, where “music can be so healing – I have seen it.” 

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During a pre-concert interview, Lee, who is not a veteran, testified that “I’m living the American dream thanks to veterans.” He has also performed for Gold Star families, and his earlier American Freedom Concert Tour benefited active-duty military and their families in need.

Lee grew up in Altoona, PA, where he still resides. He and his wife Lisa drove to the Bedford VA from Plymouth, where he was part of the Fourth of July festivities. When they arrived on the Bedford hospital campus, they set up some stage paraphernalia, including their own audio system, facing two large open tents protecting the crowd from the afternoon heat.

The 57-year-old tenor said his parents identified his musical potential at age five, when he began singing Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and the Chuck Berry classic, “Johnny B. Goode.” There were musicians in his extended family, he said, including a singing duo called Country Sweethearts.

Lee began performing live shows at age 16, and he said Wednesday he aspired to be nationally known as a singer, with his parents’ encouragement. Although he reached a point where “I kind of gave up on my dream,” a fan, blinded by a brain tumor, gave him a pep talk, and he soon responded with his “Catch a Dream” tour.

He began paying special attention to veterans in 2004, when he “realized how important our freedom is and the sacrifices our veterans made. I have been provided simple things, and we like giving back.”

Lee said he is “passionate” about his performances before veterans’ groups and institutions. “Their sacrifices are deeper than people can see.”

The performer says his work can be categorized as traditional country or country-rock. He says it’s a Nashville sound, as he records and employs session musicians from that music hub. Lee said he was particularly influenced by the music of singer-songwriter Alan Jackson.  

Many of Lee’s songs are his own compositions. Whether it’s an original or a cover, “I have to fall in love with a song to record it,” Lee said.  “A lot of my music leans toward patriotic,” he acknowledged.

Music, Lee confided, also helps him overcome the disadvantages of attention deficit disorder, while that same condition enhances his creativity.

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