Freedom Sings rocks Bluebird with ‘Watergate Years’

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The 14th annual Freedom Sings concert last night at the Bluebird Café in Nashville celebrated the thought-provoking music of the early 1970s.

Freedom Sings, a First Amendment Center program that strives to educate the public about First Amendment freedoms through topical and often controversial songs, began in 1999. It has since branched into a touring company that appears on college campuses, but the original concert remains an annual event.

Among the performances at this year’s concert, dubbed “The Watergate Years”:

  • Ashley Cleveland singing Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and Danny Flowers doing “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth), illustrating freedom of religion in song.
  • In a salute to ground-breaking soul music of the era, Joseph Wooten singing Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead/Superfly” and Rick Brantley covering Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”


  • Kim Richey recalling the economic challenges of the early ‘70s with Merle Haggard’s “If We Can Make it to December” and Peter Cooper name-checking the biggest political figures of four decades ago on Tom T. Hall’s “Watergate Blues.”


  • Tommy Womack performing Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” a provocative song with a mature theme that surprisingly saw no significant censorship.

Former Beatles were well represented, including songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Lari White performed “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” explaining that Dick Cavett had to apologize for the song on his television show before Lennon and Yoko Ono were allowed to sing it. The song is recognized as one of the earliest pop songs about equal rights for women. Paul McCartney’s “Hi Hi Hi,” banned by the BBC because a censor misunderstood the word “polygon” as “body gun,” was performed by Gordon Kennedy.

Other performers included Don Henry, Mark Volman, Bill Lloyd, Gretchen Peters, Suzi Ragsdale, Seth Timbs, Jason White, Craig Krampf, Dave Pomeroy and Walter Egan.

The evening closed with Jonell Mosser leading the assembled performers and audience in a rousing version of the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”

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