'Freedom Sings' to highlight freedom of expression in song on Oct. 12

The Oct. 12 program at Elon University in the Danieley Center Neighborhood will feature an all-star cast of musicians performing songs that have been censored or banned, or that call for social change. 

On Oct. 12, Elon University and the Danieley Center Neighborhood will join in a celebration of freedom of expression through music by playing host to Freedom Sings, an initiative of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. 

​​Headed by Ken Paulson, the former editor-in-chief of USA Today and current president of the First Amendment Center, the musical program features a cast of all-star musicians playing songs have been banned or censored, or that have called for social change. 

Listen to the lyrics of “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, and you hear a call for change. The songs penned by Woody Guthrie paint a picture of America that sheds light on injustice. Put “Get By with a Little Help From My Friends” by the Beatles on the stereo, and you hear a song that’s been banned. The musical program features songs like these with Paulson and others in the program offering insights into freedom of expression, and efforts to limit that freedom.  

“It becomes a discussion of what free expression looks like, especially through song, and what happens when songs are met with some form of resistance,” said Colin Donohue, director of student media, instructor in communications and faculty director of the Danieley Center Neighborhood, who has helped bring Freedom Sings to Elon. 

Freedom Sings was launched by the First Amendment Center 15 years ago as a way to celebrate the First Amendment using live music, video and narration that Paulson describes as “American history meets rock and roll.” As it has toured the country, it has featured a wide range of artists, including Judy Colins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle, Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals, John Kay of Steppenwolf, Mark Volman fo the Turtles, Dobie Gray, Ashley Cleveland and more. 

This year’s cast includes a guitarist who played with Prince and a keyboardist who played in the Steve Miller Band. 

“I think our students should know about songs that have been banned, and understand the power that music has to affect social change,” Donohue said. “It will be a fun, educational experience that bridges the intellectual and the social.”

The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the PARC in the Danieley Center and is open to all students, faculty, staff and community members. Freedom Sings is sponsored by the Danieley Center Neighborhood with support from the Colonnades Neighborhood, the Global Neighborhood, Living and Learning at Elon, the School of Communications, the Office of the Provost, Student Government Association, the Office of Cultural and Special Programs, the Kernodle Center for Service Learning, Elon Votes!, Elon News Network, the Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Council on Civic Engagement.