The story behind

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” 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.

“They really fell in love with our song,” Wilms says. “Amnesty said that they’d like us to record it, but that I would have to manage it. I thought, ‘Oh my God, what kind of commitment have I made?’ But I’ve been lucky in my life so I said, ‘Fine. I will make it happen.’

The basic tracks were recorded at the legendary Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y, affectionately known as “the Barn,” where acclaimed artists like the Black Crowes and My Morning Jacket have made recordings and where Helm, a four-time Grammy winner, stages his intimate, multi-artist concert performances known as the “Midnight Ramble.”

“The Barn is a magical place of peace and calm that recharges your mojo,” Carlton says. “It’s a fantastic sounding room with an extraordinarily generous host who embraces your talent and soul.”

“Toast To Freedom” is available for purchase via the usual online stores worldwide. Proceeds will benefit Amnesty International. Moreover, “Toast To Freedom” will be available in a wide assortment of audio mixes, including “Global Master Mixes” for both the “Extended Version” and “Radio Edit;” as well as later on regional specific remixes South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and the USA.

Find everybody who made this song possible in the Credits

“Toast To Freedom” has since been reinterpreted by a remarkable range of artists moved by the song’s indefatigable spirit. Among them are such unique artists as Russian rap icon Basta, whose version of the song – dubbed “Svoboda” (“Freedom” in Russian) – hast become a true sensation in his native country. Basta created “Svoboda” by melding potent new lyrics with samples from the original “Toast To Freedom” track.

What’s more, an additional version of “Toast To Freedom” was performed live on Russian TV by the vocal collective of Pavel Artemiev, Jenia Lubich, and Russia’s top a capella beatbox group, The Jukebox Trio.  The performance, which was initially broadcast on the Channel One late night show, Evening Urgant.

Meanwhile, students at Germany’s Hochschule Osnabrück started a communal production of “Toast To Freedom”. More than forty students at the Institute for Music of the College at Osnabrueck, the symphony orchestra of Osnabrueck and thousands of local citizens have turned recordings of the Amnesty International anthem “Toast To Freedom” into a demonstration for freedom that’s truly one-off-a-kind!  Moreover, they blazed unexpected musical trails with a powerful dance version of the song dubbed as “Toast to Freedom – The Freedom City Mix.” The project – inspired by Osnabrueck musician and journalist Heinz Rebellius – was initially intended only to include students at the college.  However, as Martin Behrens, director of the Pop studies program, explains, “it soon dawned on us to include not only the Osnabrueck symphony orchestra, but the entire city!”  For this the annual May street festival called „Maiwoche“ delivered the perfect opportunity. The festival enabled a chorus of thousands of Osnabrueck residents to gather together in the main square of the town, which has already for centuries been known as the “Freedom City.”  Carl Carlton, composer and lyricist for the original version of the song, also expressed admiration for the “Freedom City Mix” of his song:  “The fact that the entire city of Osnabrueck joined in creating this version is something very special.  You can see the enthusiasm in the video: the stage performers and audience members practically melt together as one – that’s how it should be!”

Artists from all corners of the globe were on hand for Electric Burma: A Concert for Aung San Suu Kyi, on June 18th at Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Organized and promoted by Art for Amnesty´s Bill Shipsey, the extraordinary event was a celebration of Nobel Peace Prize recipient and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi. Electric Burma was highlighted by Aung San Suu Kyi’s acceptance of Amnesty International’s prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award, conferred on individuals who demonstrate exceptional leadership in the fight to protect and promote human rights. Electric Burma further included a very special live performance of “Toast To Freedom. The unique multi-artist rendition featured an all-star band led by the song’s writer and Electric Burma’s Co-Musical Producer Carl Carlton, who said: “It will be a great honor perform ‘Toast To Freedom’ for Aung Saan Su Kyi. She stands for everything I believe in and fight and write for. She is the spirit of ‘Toast To Freedom’.”

Coinciding with the release of “Toast to Freedom,” Amnesty also sponsored a competition encouraging musicians all over the world to enter their own musical interpretations and arrangements of this catchy tune. Of the many entries received, “Toast to Freedom – The Berlin Mix” by young Berlin artist Luca, was unanimously chosen by the judges as the winner.  Inspired by Berlin’s own struggles against tyranny, Luca succeeded in creating a moving arrangement that captures a deep and intense yearning for freedom. Luca’s version was also a clear winner for songwriter Carl Carlton: “The message of the original, which is about each individual’s right to freedom and the protection of human rights around the world, is in Lucas’ version transformed into a very personal one. This is a young voice coming forward to make the point that the fight for freedom and human rights takes place in our very own back yards every day.” Executive producer Jochen Wilms says, “Luca’s Berlin Mix adds a new and very personal dimension to the artistic initiative.  She recorded it independently in Berlin and, together with Berlin cameraman Daniel Devecioglu and co-director Tom Richter, also produced her own video – a truly impressive and moving professional production!”

 

Lyrics

VERSE 1
How delicious is the winning of her kiss
Bind her love to eternal bliss
She’s the greatest power in the universe
Freedom

Her touch will feed your real hope
In the darkest of days and on the steepest slope
Let your good heart and kindness fill her temple
Freedom

BRIDGE
Nobody’s free until everybody’s free
We walk a long winding road, sail the raging seas
No prison cell, no censorship hell
Can claim our obedience and love

CHORUS
Here’s our toast to freedom
To human rights and dignity
Love, respect and forgiveness
United in the dream for victory
Here’s to the battlefields for justice
Of the tortured, banished and enslaved
To the selfless spirit and commitment
To our brothers and sisters in the grave

 

VERSE 2
She hurts when sovereigns and parliaments meet
To shackle more chains about Liberty’s feet
When the rulers cast the votes they can not spell
Freedom

Her open eyes desire nothing but the truth
The soul of mankind, untainted youth
Yes–for this I will stand up and fight
Freedom

BRIDGE 2
Nobody’s free until everybody’s free
We walk a hard road, sail the raging seas
No prison cell, no censorship hell
Can claim our obedience and love

CHORUS

SOLO

BRIDGE 3
Nobody’s free until everybody’s free
Together we walk a hard road, sail the raging seas
No prison cell, no censorship hell
Can claim our obedience and love

BREAKDOWN

Here’s our toast to freedom
To human rights and dignity
Love, respect and forgiveness
United in the dream for victory

OUTRO (W/BACKGROUND VOCALS)

Here’s our toast to freedom
To human rights and dignity
Love, respect and forgiveness
United in the dream for victory

The Music Video

Making of