KANSAS CITY, KS (HAVIGHURST) -- Freedom Sings, the traveling cavalcade of song that tells the story of the First Amendment and Civil Rights through music, had not staged a show at the Folk Alliance International convention since the early 2000s when the event briefly headquartered in Nashville.
But the convention’s theme this weekend in Kansas City, Forbidden Folk: Activism In Art, was too compelling to pass up.
Ten artists, some veterans of Freedom Sings and others first-timers, were recruited from the talent pool showcasing at Folk Alliance. First Amendment Center Director and Freedom Sings founder and speaker Ken Paulson says it was a contrast from the more scripted Freedom Sings format.
“Today was an amazing gamble,” Paulson said after the show. “You contact all these artists you believe are kindred spirits who care about free speech and music and say, ‘Would you consider doing some of these classic songs?’ And then they show up without rehearsal and do them off the top of their heads. And it was an amazingly powerful and poetic afternoon. Sometimes you don’t need rehearsal when you have enough passion.”
Kim Richey sang Loretta Lynn’s 1975 song of chemical/sexual liberation “The Pill.” Mark Huff took on a song banned from radio by an artist with a thick FBI file when he sang John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.” Environmental songs were represented by Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” as sung by Amy Speace. And singer/guitarist Anne McCue surprised with the power of a global song of protest by her fellow Australians Midnight Oil. “Short Memory” combined a complex guitar lick with lyrics about the tendency of cycles of fascism, imperialism and exploitation to repeat themselves.
Freedom Sings was presented by WMOT in partnership with MTSU’s Center for Popular Music and the Bluebird Café in Nashville. The show tours college as part of the First Amendment Center and MTSU's educational outreach.
A complete set list follows:
Freedom Sings at Folk Alliance
Kim Richey – Where Have the Flowers Gone? – Pete Seeger
Sonia - Blowin’ In the Wind – Bob Dylan
Sonia - Small Circle of Friends – Phil Ochs
Amy Speace – Society’s Child – Janis Ian
Greg Reish – A Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore – John Prine
Sean McConnell - Ohio- Neil Young
Amy Speace - I Am Woman - Helen Reddy
Kim Richey – The Pill – Loretta Lynn
Amy Speace – Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
Mark Huff- Working Class Hero – John Lennon
Jeff Black - Sunday Morning Coming Down - Kris Kristofferson
Anne McCue - Short Memory - Midnight Oil
Bob Woodruff - A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
Dan Navarro and cast – This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie