Only genuine passion for an extraordinary and powerful project could bring together artists ranging from Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Lupe Fiasco and John Legend to Randy Newman, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder for exclusive live performances. They and others are heard on The People Speak (Verve/UMe), the soundtrack of the documentary being released December 8, 2009, in conjunction with the December 13 broadcast of the film set to air on History.
The film celebrates democracy, based on the lives and experiences of ordinary Americans who, through their words and actions, changed the course of history, from the founding of this country to the civil rights movement and beyond.
“The music artists came to this project because of the hope they have for what 'The People Speak' will do for a new generation,” said Chris Moore, one of the film's executive producers, along with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and others. “Writing speeches and books is one way to bring about change; music is another. There is a long history of music serving as an inspiration for others to stand up and make a difference. One song can affect people unlike anything else.”
The People Speak features some of the world's most renowned artists, like Springsteen, who performs with just a guitar and harmonica in his New Jersey home recording studio, and Legend who sings solo backed by a piano at a Boston theatre, as well as others (including Taj Mahal, Allison Moorer, The Black Crowes' Rich Robinson and X's Exene Cervenka and John Doe) at the Malibu Performing Arts Center, where they perform both vintage and recent protest-music classics for The People Speak.
With a sense of timelessness, Springsteen reprises the John Steinbeck/Woody Guthrie-inspired “The Ghost of Tom Joad” from his 1995 album of the same name; Dylan sings Guthrie's “Do Re Mi”; and Dylan's early '60s gems “Masters Of War” and “Only A Pawn In Their Game” are performed by Vedder and Robinson, respectively.
One of the best-known songs of the Great Depression, “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?,” is sung by Moorer; Newman is at his piano for one of his finest works, “Sail Away,” the title track from his 1972 album; Legend performs Marvin Gaye's '70s anthem “What's Going On”; Mahal lays down the immortal “Blues With A Feeling”; and Cervenka and Doe revive X's roots rocker “See How We Are” from 1987. Bringing protest music up to date are Fiasco's “American Terrorist,” first heard on his 2006 debut album; Pink's “Dear Mr. President,” heard on her album of that same year; and Browne's “The Drums Of War,” which debuted on his 2008 album.
The People Speak documentary is inspired by co-executive producer Howard Zinn's 1980 book, A People's History Of The United States, which has sold more than two million copies, and 2004's Voices Of A People's History Of The United States, which Zinn co-wrote with co-executive producer Anthony Arnove. The film, narrated by Howard Zinn, features dramatic performances chronicling this country's history -- including charter documents, letters, diaries and more -- by such celebrities as Damon, Brolin, Marisa Tomei, Don Cheadle, and Sandra Oh, woven together with archival footage. A DVD of the film and a separate DVD of music performances will be issued in 2010.
“The musicians are an eclectic group but they have one thing in common,” said Moore. “They understand the intrinsic power of their music. It's cool to have them all on one album but it's even better that they're singing about something. They came together for 'The People Speak' because of Zinn's book. They loved it and were excited by it. He e-mailed and called them and they said, 'We'd love to do this.' They understand that the power of the people to speak out can make our world a better place.”
The People Speak - Track listing
BOB DYLAN - Do Re Mi
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - The Ghost Of Tom Joad
EDDIE VEDDER - Masters Of War
PINK - Dear Mr. President
RANDY NEWMAN - Sail Away
LUPE FIASCO - American Terrorist
JACKSON BROWNE - The Drums Of War
JOHN LEGEND - What's Going On
EXENE CERVENKA & JOHN DOE - See How We Are
TAJ MAHAL - Blues With A Feeling
ALLISON MOORER - Brother Can You Spare A Dime
RICH ROBINSON - Only A Pawn In Their Game
Sujata Murthy, UMe 310 865 7812 sujata.murthy [at] umusic.com
Rebecca Posford, UMe 310 865 9804 rebecca.posford [at] umusic.com
Vicky Kahn, HISTORY, 212-210-9743 vicky.kahn [at] aetn.com