Music helps bridge troubled waters, ‘Speaking Freely’ singers say

Thursday, October 4, 2001
Judy Collins.

NEW YORK — Music is playing a vital role in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy, soothing many souls and providing a powerful force to those who have been affected, according to singer-songwriter Judy Collins.

“Hymns such as ‘Amazing Grace’ have the power to transcend what’s going on. When I hear this music at ceremonies and memorials, it makes me feel that these songs give a great deal of hope to people,” Collins said during an Oct. 2 taping of the First Amendment Center’s weekly television show, “Speaking Freely.”

Collins, whose past hits include “Both Sides Now,” said today’s heightened political and social awareness reminded her of the 1960s. “There was always an undercurrent of political positions to take in music,” she recalled, and protest songs were prominent at civil rights and anti-war rallies on Capitol Hill.

These songs of protest had a profound effect on public support for the Vietnam War, Collins added. “If it hadn’t been for all those voices being a part of the (anti-war) movement, the war could have gone on much longer.”

Collins, who twice was arrested in the 1960s for participating in anti-war protests, has supported many social causes over the years, including UNICEF, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, where she is a representative.

“There’s always something somewhere that all of us has to address. You have to find your gift, and for me, my voice is my gift to others,” she said.

Earlier in the day, singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon appeared on another “Speaking Freely” taping.

DeShannon has just released “You Know Me,” her first CD in 20 years.

“I prefer not to describe this as a comeback, but a reconnection” with her audience, DeShannon said.

DeShannon, probably best known for her hit, “What the World Needs Now,” described her experience in visiting and entertaining the troops in Vietnam.

“Regardless of how you felt about the war, I felt our guys needed to be entertained,” she said.

DeShannon said her other hit, “Put A Little Love in Your Heart,” is “simply idealistic emotion,” of which there is a shortage, she said.

“We have cut back way too much on nourishing the soul and nourishing our children with this kind of emotion,” she said. “I don’t think people have the kind of hope I grew up with. … We’re not capable as a country in marketing faith and hope — it’s not mainstream. It’s very angry these days.”

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