The Buzz

Toast to Freedom with late Levon Helm

Categories: Music

Recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y, ("the Barn"), the song Toast to Freedom was created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International. It features a slew of veteran rockers, bluesmen and musicians, including Helm, the late singer and drummer for The Band. Check out the video and keep an eye out for Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Ewan McGregor, Donald Fagen, Warren Haynes, Keb' Mo', Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Florent Pagny, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Jimmy Barnes, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Mullins and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

An actual "toast to freedom" was the initial spark that spurred Amnesty International founder Peter Benenson in 1961. Inspired by the story of two Portuguese students imprisoned for making a toast to freedom in a Lisbon bar, the British lawyer penned a newspaper article and launched his worldwide movement to free prisoners of conscience.

The namesake song was recorded last summer, when Helm was still healthy enough to help lay down the background track with some friends, according to producer Larry Campbell. Other artists were added later, including some participants from overseas.

"When we recorded the original rhythm track for this, it was such a great day. Everybody was just completely in the spirit of the cause, the spirit of the song and the spirit of the music. One of the great things about working with Levon was he always made playing music a joyful event. And I know he wanted to see this thing through as far as he could," Campbell said.

The song makes its TV debut Thursday on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

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