Amnesty International today releases “Toast To Freedom,” a new and exclusive commemorative song dedicated to human rights activism around the world and performed by nearly 50 artists, including Levon Helm, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Ewan McGregor, Donald Fagen, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Florent Pagny, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Jimmy Barnes, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Mullins, the Blind Boys of Alabama, among others.
Written by veteran guitarist/producers Carl Carlton (Robert Palmer, Eric Burdon, Keb Mo) and Larry Campbell (Levon Helm Band, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello), “Toast To Freedom” is the brainchild of Carlton, and longtime music industry executive, activist, and entrepreneur Jochen Wilms in collaboration with Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey.
“Toast To Freedom,” which celebrates Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary, is being released to coincide with World Press Freedom Day. “Toast To Freedom” is available for purchase via the usual online retailers worldwide. Proceeds will benefit Amnesty International.
“Human rights are everybody’s business,” says Secretary-General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty. “I would like to thank all the people who gave their time to make this project happen. I hope Toast To Freedom will become a major source of inspiration in the coming years.”
The basic tracks were recorded at the legendary Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y, affectionately known as “the Barn,” and where Helm, a four-time Grammy winner, stages intimate, multi-artist concert performances known as the “Midnight Ramble.” Producer/engineer Bob Clearmountain (The Who, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen) produced the track, which was then sent out to artists, who added vocals.
“Toast To Freedom” was inspired by Carlton, a longtime supporter of Amnesty International, who suggested teaming up with Wilms on a commemorative project to mark the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Following Helms death on April 19, Wilms said: “Levon was one great soul. I am so grateful we got to work with him, his outstanding band and team in his barn in Woodstock. He was an inspiration and our muse. The song “Toast To Freedom” is dedicated to Amnesty International but in a certain way is now a “Toast To Levon” and a celebration for him as well: Truth, heart and soul were always part of Levon’s DNA and are the essential basis of Amnesty International and our project. We will miss him and love him forever.”
Shipsey said of Helm: “On behalf of Amnesty International’s millions of members around the world I want to say how grateful we are to Levon Helm for his generous artistic contribution and support that will make a real difference to our life-saving work around the world. We in Amnesty owe him a huge debt. The best way to repay that debt to him is by continuing our work. Levon Helm created with 50 international musicians some musical magic for Amnesty. This happens when goodness and love combine with kindness and art to produce beauty and power leading to unarmed truth – still the most powerful thing in the universe.”
Filmmaker Natalie Johns of Dig for Fire captured all stages of the international production on video. Johns is known for her works with such artists as Jay-Z, Peter Gabriel and The Rolling Stones. The project will be featured in a short “making-of” documentary as well as a companion music video.
In 1962, Amnesty International evolved from a one-year campaign to free political prisoners –the inspiration of a British lawyer outraged by the injustice he saw worldwide — into a global movement fighting for justice, freedom and human dignity.
“Our hope from the very start was to bring the message of freedom and human rights to a global audience,” said Shipsey.