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Freedom Sings for Opening Ceremony

Posted by Gretchen Mahan on September 10, 2008

     In order to launch the Missouri School of Journalism Centennial on Wednesday, September 10, 2008, nine of of the top musicians and vocalists in the nation gathered to promote the first amendment in a performance featuring various songs that have been censored in the United States. 

     Ken Paulson, Mizzou alum and editor and senior vice president of USA Today and USAToday.com, hosted the event, which celebrated its tenth anniversary with Wednesday’s performance. 

     The performers included Grammy award winners and nationally renowned songwriters Ashley Cleveland, Don Henry, Criag Krampf, Bill Lloyd, Jonell Mosser, Jason White, Joseph Wooten, and Jackie Patterson.

To see pictures of the event go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/30245262@N07/. 

     The band began with a melody of songs in which Criag Krampf performed, but quickly moved on to the heart of the performance, which included a variety of genres such as rap, rock and roll, country, and everything in between. The one thing that all the songs had in common was that they were, at least at one time, considered controversial.

     The audience laughed light-heartedly as Paulson relayed how the FBI even became involved, scrutinizing music for months at a time.

     “Puff the Magic Dragon” appeared to be one of the crowd’s favorite as many began to stand up and sing along. 

     The audience consisted mainly of MU Journalism alumni and students, although the event was open and free to the public.

     Another interesting part of the performance was when James White played a song he had written for Tim McGraw. Certain radio stations decided to remove the song “Red Rag Top” from their playlist because of listener complaints. The song describes a young couple whose love is tested after they have decided to have an abortion. 

     “The controversy made the song climb the chart faster than it would have otherwise,” White said.

     The songs the band performed covered all of the five topics covered in the first amendment: freedom of religion, speech, press, to peacefully assemble, and to petition government for the redress of grievances. 

     The event’s goal was to raise awareness about the importance of first amendment rights. Paulson mentioned during the night that only two percent of Americans can name all five of the first amendment rights. 

     At the end of the night, a slide show ran with the official song of the Missouri School of Journalism Centennial, “Coming Back Again.” 

     The song was quite personal for MU alumni, incorporating specific references to Mizzou throughout.

     “Adorned with black and gold, we spread the truth where told,” the song said.

     The main message of the song resounded clearly in the chorus. “Nothing reminds me quite like coming back again.”

     Alumni Peggy Marion and Carolyn Mulford responded positively to the night’s performance. 

     “The song selection was great,” Marion said. 

     International graduate student Mu Li from China said she enjoyed the lessons that went along with the music. While she had heard some of the names of the artists and songs, she did not realize the censorship that was placed on them.

     “It was a very enriching experience for me,” Li said.

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