More than a dozen leading lights of Americana music will perform songs they did not write but in which they deeply believe at a special event on the opening night of Americanafest 2017.
“A Change Is Gonna Come” “Amazing Grace” and “I Shall Be Released” will be on the setlist Sept 12 at War Memorial Auditorium for The People Sing!. It’s a celebration and extension of the work of the late historian Howard Zinn, whose 1980 book A People’s History of the United States, reframed the American story from the point of view of native people, working people and marginalized or oppressed minorities.
“I would call it a history from below,” says Anthony Arnove, the show’s producer. He collaborated with Zinn before the author’s death in 2010 and now is a caretaker of the Zinn legacy.
“He opened up a more honest and truthful way of looking at our history, one that did certainly offend some people. But really what’s been interesting is seeing how popular that way of looking at history has become.”
In part through a long-running series of live events in which writers, activists and actors give voice to Zinn’s work. This will be the first such program built mostly around music. The lineup will include Hayes Carll, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Alice Randall, Joe Henry, Teddy Thompson, Otis Taylor, Elizabeth Cook, Shelby Lynne, Blind Boys of Alabama, Rhiannon Giddens, Billy Bragg, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Allison Moorer, who is the show’s musical director.
Arnove says the message of his programs hasn’t changed since the election of Donald Trump, but that attendance and interest is way up.
“Which I think speaks to the desire out there for people to figure out how we got to this particular juncture in our history and how we might take inspiration from people who’ve spoken out against racism, xenophobia and other forms of injustice in the past and how some of those lessons might be applicable today.”
The People Sing is a stand-alone event. Visit the War Memorial Auditorium web site for tickets.