First Amendment Center’s Freedom Sings concert to make New York debut

Friday, March 2, 2001

NEW YORK — Freedom Sings™, the First Amendment Center’s special series of concerts celebrating freedom of expression through music, will hold its New York debut March 5 at the Greenwich Village institution The Bottom Line. The concert kicks off “Freedom Sings Month,” sponsored by the First Amendment Center during the month of March.

Freedom Sings is named after the center’s concert series that features live performances of topical, controversial and thought-provoking songs. Scheduled to appear without fee are singer/songwriter Janis Ian, Jefferson Starship’s Marty Balin and Paul Kantner, and singer/songwriter Tom Paxton. Dominic Chianese, aka Corrado “Junior” Soprano of the HBO series “The Sopranos” will host the event. A portion of net proceeds from the concert will benefit the planned Folk Music Museum in Greenwich Village, a national museum.

Earlier in the day, the public will be invited to attend a free discussion with Balin and Kantner at the First Amendment Center. (See “Speaking Freely” taping below.)

“Without free speech, this country is no different from any dictatorship,” Ian said at a recent First Amendment Center program. Ian recalled when at age 14, her song, “Society’s Child,” about an interracial teen-age relationship, was banned by radio stations across the country. She was one of the youngest artists to be heckled by outraged adults during numerous performances at the time.

Jefferson Airplane’s counterculture reputation routinely attracted police and FBI agents in the 1960s. Its own record label, RCA, censored drug references from the group’s recordings (one early track had the word “trips” deleted.) In 1969, the group released “Volunteers,” which served as a musical call-to-arms for young Americans who were becoming increasingly involved in civil rights activism, Vietnam war protests and the counterculture of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury.

“Music has played a pivotal role in social movements throughout this century. The messages of the civil rights, women’s rights, environmental and world peace movements were all amplified through song,” said Ken Paulson executive director of the First Amendment Center. “Free expression and music are a potent combination. Freedom sings. And music matters.”

Show times at The Bottom Line are 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available at The Bottom Line box office.

Other events scheduled during “Freedom Sings Month” will be held at the First Amendment Center, 580 Madison Avenue at 57th St. The following are free and are open to the public:

  • March 5, 4 p.m.: “Speaking Freely” taping with Paul Kantner and Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and the KBC Band. Ken Paulson will moderate a lively discussion with Kantner and Balin about their experiences with censorship and free expression. “Speaking Freely” is the center’s weekly television program on free expression and the arts.
  • March 27, 6:30 p.m.: “Speaking Freely” taping with Jill Sobule. Paulson will interview singer/songwriter Jill Sobule, whose 1995 hit, “I Kissed A Girl” provoked a firestorm. Sobule’s new album, “Pink Pearl,” will appear in record stores in the coming months.

Also during Freedom Sings Month:

  • March 3: Television premiere of “Freedom Sings.” A documentary featuring highlights from the “Freedom Sings” concert in Nashville will premiere on WNPT-TV in Nashville and on other television stations across the country. (PBS’ WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., will air the documentary April 4.)

  • March 20: Release of a First Amendment study guide and Freedom Sings video: This study guide for teachers 7th grade and up will be accompanied by a VHS video featuring live performances taped during the Freedom Sings concert in Nashville. The guide and video, to be distributed to educators across the country, use music as a tool to teach about music and censorship. The guide also will be available online at

The first “Freedom Sings” concert was held in 1999 at Nashville’s historic Bluebird Café. It drew such artists as Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, John Kay of Steppenwolf, Bill Lloyd, Greg Trooper, Kim Richey, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Matraca Berg and many others. Other events have been held in Boulder, Colo., and Memphis, Tenn., as well as Penn State University and the University of North Carolina.

In fall 2000, the First Amendment Center released the “Freedom Sings” CD, a compilation of songs performed during the July 1999 concert in Nashville. Americana and other radio stations across the country have included “Freedom Sings” on their playlist.

For other upcoming events at the First Amendment Center, call 212-317-7596.

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