Freedom Sings benefit to make New York debut

Wednesday, June 20, 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 June 20 at the Greenwich Village institution The Bottom Line. The concert kicks off “Freedom Sings Week,” sponsored by the First Amendment Center during the week of June 18.

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 Starships’ 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 Starship’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, 15 West 4th St., 212-228-6300.

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

June 18 and June 19, 6 p.m.-8 p.m.: “On the Line” With Brian Lehrer
The public will be invited to a live taping of WNYC-AM’s award-winning daily public affairs program, “On the Line.” Host Brian Lehrer will interview prominent musicians about music censorship. This event also will feature live performances from the artists.

Wed., June 20, 3 p.m.: A Conversation With Jefferson Starship
Marty Balin and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Starship will discuss their experiences as one of rock’s most challenged bands during a “Speaking Freely” taping.

Fri., June 22, 1 p.m.: “Freedom Sings”: A Documentary
This documentary features highlights from a Freedom Sings concert at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe. Performances include Beth Nielsen Chapman, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and Kim Richey.

Tues., June 26, 6 p.m.: A Conversation With John Kay of Steppenwolf.
Ken Paulson will interview John Kay for a taping of “Speaking Freely.”

The first Freedom Sings concert was held in 1999 at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. 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.