With the Fourth of July fast approaching, people turn their thoughts to our nation and the men and women who risk their lives to protect us. In the midst of the picnics and boating on the lakes, many Americans will stop and say a prayer of thanks for this country.

Patriotic songs have crossed genres through the years, from the 'Star Spangled Banner' to 'God Bless America' and 'God God Bless the USA.' Gary Morris adds a new song to the July 4 playlist this week with the release and free download of a riveting ballad, 'Faith and Freedom,' the title cut from a new album coming out later this month. Click here to get an mp3 of the song for free.

Gary, of course, is the powerhouse singer and songwriter behind such hits as 'Wind Beneath My Wings' and 'Baby Bye Bye.' He's also an outspoken supporter of our troops and is sending 12,000 free copies of 'Faith and Freedom' to officers at military bases around the world.

"Literally, we are sending them to every ship, every port, to every military base in the world," Gary tells The Boot in an exclusive interview. "We are making it available for all military people to download the song free between July 1 and July 5, by going to my website, www.garymorris.com. We are also sending the single out to radio stations in the U.S. outside of military installations."

Gary has most recently been touring with his friend Kenny Rogers, and is gearing up for a tour of his own in the next few weeks while Kenny takes some time off.

"I haven't really been excited about anything musically in a long time," Gary admits, "but being out with Kenny on dates, playing alone with a guitar and seeing people stand up when I leave the stage, makes me thrilled to have this project right now."

Gary Morris

The Texas native says it is interesting how the song came to be written. He was in the midst of recording the album, and knew he was going to call it 'Faith and Freedom,' although he didn't have a song written or recorded by that title.

"I wanted to find an artist to do a painting that represents me and where I am in life and the music I'm doing," Gary reveals. "I'm some kind of balance between a dove and a hawk. I'm a gun toting hunter. I don't think we should be the world's policeman, but I think we do have certain responsibilities as a super power."

Gary admits that writing the tune was almost an afterthought. "I found an artist in Dickson, Tenn. to do the painting for me, and it is unbelievable. A songwriter friend of mine, Pat Bunch, saw the painting and she said, 'Oh I hope he will let me write that song with him.' So Pat and I had conversations about what we wanted it to say and then when we got together to write, it was magical.

"I took the lyric on the road with me, and worked on a melody on my guitar and on a piano," he continues. "I just messed around with it until I got what I wanted. Then we went in and recorded it, and the rest is musical.

"What I was not trying to do is say that everyone in the world has to have my faith, but I think there can be no freedom for anybody if they don't have a faith. I'm not supporting any specific religion, other than if you have that faith, then you have a chance to be a free person. The two are interlocked. If you don't believe in something, you can't ever be a free person. I also believe that no man has the right to enslave another person. I just don't see that as a valid existence for both men and women. I'm not the most verbal guy out there about it, but I'm not afraid to express that opinion. I think that will come through in this project."

The singer says he has been a supporter of the military since before he had his first recording contract. Gary did his first USO tour in 1976, and has continued with his support through concerts and charity events ever since. One of his favorite charities to work with right now is TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an organization that provides grief counseling for the families who have lost loved ones serving in the military.

"I've done several golf tournaments to help raise money for them, and I make appearances at various events for them," Gary explains. "I spoke with them about getting involved with this project, and they thought it would be great to get the proceeds from the album. I've donated elk hunts and fishing trips to them, but they are doing the hard work. I thought the album could be a huge fundraiser for them that would go on for some time."

The single and upcoming album is a foray back into music that has been a long time coming for Gary. "I kind of thought when I moved to Colorado I would hang it up," he says. "For the longest time I wouldn't do it (play music), but I found I still have something to say.

"I listen to who is singing and what's being played today, and I think I'll be competitive when I go out there and play. I now have three or four generations of people who come out to see me, and I want to keep on keeping on."