Published: Sep 21, 2008 07:05 PM
Modified: Sep 21, 2008 07:05 PM
CHAPEL HILL -- The First Amendment is a little thing, clocking in at just 45 words, and it seems straightforward enough.
In sum: The government cannot establish an official state religion or prohibit individual Americans from freely practicing whatever religion they choose. Nor can it intrude on the freedoms of speech, the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
That's it. Simple, right?
Except, of course, it isn't. Citizens, courts and government officials have wrestled over the interpretation and application of the First Amendment from the birth of the nation to today.
A multimedia performance at Memorial Hall on the UNC campus Thursday night will take an irreverent, uptempo look at the First Amendment, especially its impact on music.
"Freedom Sings," a traveling show presented by the First Amendment Center, includes video images, narration and live performances by musicians playing music that has been banned, censored or served as social anthems. Reflecting a wide range of political perspectives, it spotlights the important role music has played in the exercise of First Amendment freedoms through the years.
"We go through the history of free expression in America is it has been expressed through music," said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. "We touch on everything from 'Strange Fruit,' a song about lynching sung by Billie Holliday, to 'Short People,' by Randy Newman, which some people wanted banned because they thought it was hate speech,to Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, rap and hip hop. We look at every place music has collided with people who wanted to silence it or prevent people from listening to it."
The Kingsmen's 1963 rocker "Louie, Louie," for example, has been repeatedly challenged -- not because its lyrics were obscene, but because nobody could understand what they were, and so it was assumed they must be inappropriate.
The performing lineup for "Freedom Sings" changes from show to show, but "Freedom Sings" features hit songwriters and Grammy Award-winners.
"Freedom Sings" will be held at Memorial Hall on the UNC campus Thursday at 7 p.m.
The First Amendment Center is a nonpartisan organization that works to eserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education.
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