Country music artist Ricky Lee specializes in performing for veterans.
And that transcends melodies and lyrics. It’s an experience – personal, tactile, infused with energy and gratitude.
Lee presented a one-hour set on Wednesday afternoon on the Springs Road campus of the VA Hospital, now known as the VA Bedford Health Care System.
“Thank you for allowing me to live the American dream,” he told the veterans in the crowd of more than 200, which also included volunteers and staff members, as well as the public.
The 57-year-old singer, wearing a signature black cowboy hat and brown boots, offered more than 15 selections, many of them originals. He synchronized his singing with recorded vocal harmonies and instrumental accompaniment, which he deftly managed from a laptop for seamless traditions between songs, interspersed with monologue.
The audience was seated under a pair of large tents with open sides, and as he sang using a cordless microphone, Lee was constantly on the move in and around the shelters. He greeted each veteran with a handshake or a quick embrace, danced with a staff member or volunteer, dashed into one tent to stand on a chair and sing, then to the other to finish the verse.
Meanwhile, more than two dozen volunteers, most wearing green reflective vests, not only wheeled non-ambulatory patients from their hospital rooms to the tents but also cared for them with bottled water, cold towels, and companionship.
Lee’s songs are bucolic, sometimes nostalgic, an idealized vision of contemporary life. “America Is My Home Town” is a travelogue that doesn’t distinguish blue and red states. “She’s an American Soldier” is a tribute to women in the armed forces.
“The American Dream,” his newest song, includes lyrics, “I don’t need too much to help me get through life. I’ve got everything I need in my piece of the American dream… This land is a pot of gold with a written guarantee.”
He covered John Denver’s 1971 classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” as well as “Johnny B. Goode,” which Chuck Berry popularized in 1958, eight years before Lee was born. Several veterans and others in the audience joined in as Lee presented “God Bless the USA,” which Lee Greenwood first popularized 40 years ago.
Lee performed at the Bedford VA in 2014, 2015, and 2017. Dr. Joan Clifford, director of the hospital, joined the crowd Wednesday, and thanked the performer before his finale. “Do you want him back?” she polled to a chorus of cheers and applause.