Country Artists to Make Freedom Ring With “America the Beautiful”

Country artists including Toby Keith, Clint Black, BR549, Vince Gill, Lonestar, Kenny Rogers, Sawyer Brown, Keith Urban and Jamie O’Neal will enter a Nashville studio Tuesday night (June 19) to film and record a performance of “America the Beautiful” for a July 4 ABC News special being produced by Norman Lear.

This year marks the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia plans a major celebration, produced by Lear, including a dramatic reading of the Declaration by a dozen actors, among them Mel Gibson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Kathy Bates, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Whoopi Goldberg and Kevin Spacey. Garth Brooks will give a special performance, and Blue Man Group will interpret “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“We had this idea that we should create a piece of music that would stand the test of time for the next 200 years,” says Rob Light, head of the music division at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). CAA will coordinate the film and recording session.

James Stroud and Tony Brown will co-produce the event at Scene Three in Nashville. So far, plans have not been worked out to release the project commercially.

Lear and philanthropist David Hayden purchased a rare first printing of the Declaration of Independence in June 2000 for $8.14 million. It is one of 25 surviving copies of the document and the only copy not owned by a public institution, Light said.

When he bought the document last year, Lear announced plans to send it on a national tour. The recording and the July 4 special will help launch Lear’s initiative, aimed at bringing the “people’s document” back to the American people.

“Creative Artists is working with Norman to bring the document out to schools and malls, to let people touch the foundation of America and our freedoms,” Light said.

Also scheduled to be a part of the recording session are Rascal Flatts, Billy Dean, Trace Adkins, John Berry, Phil Vassar, Suzy Bogguss, the Warren Brothers, Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Little Big Town.

From the pop and contemporary Christian world, participants include Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Avalon, Anointed, Zoe Girl, True Vibe, Jars of Clay and Jaci Velasquez.

Black’s wife, Lisa Hartman Black, and pop singer Jewel, in Nashville to record a new album, also will lend their voices to the patriotic anthem.

A bipartisan committee chaired by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford is steering the non-profit Declaration of Independence Project.

“This came together very quickly, very organically,” Light said of the recording session. “There are some great artists coming down.”

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