With Rock Shows Under Attack By Islamist Terrorists, Will Paul McCartney Return 9/11 Anthem ‘Freedom’ to US Tour?

Islamist terrorists have opened a new front in their war on the West: Rock shows and nightclubs. Now would be a good time for Paul McCartney to return his defiant post-9/11 anthem ‘Freedom’ to his concerts as he kicks off the summer US leg of the One to One tour in Miami, Florida this Friday.

Paul McCartney plays Freedom at the Concert for New York, October 20, 2001, screen image via YouTube.

McCartney wrote Freedom after watching the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda terror attack on New York City as he sat on a plane at JFK airport waiting to fly to London. The flight was cancelled as was all U.S. air traffic that day. McCartney first played Freedom one month later at a 9/11 benefit show and played it at concerts all across the U.S. in 2002 where it was a flag-waving crowd favorite, but stopped playing the song after 2002 because of President George W. Bush and a concern that the song was being perceived as militaristic, McCartney said in interviews.

The lyrics to Freedom:

This is my right
A right given by God
To live a free life
To live in freedom

Talking about freedom
Talking about freedom
And I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

And anyone
Who tries to take it away
Will have to answer
‘Cause this is my life

Talkin’ about freedom
Talkin’ about freedom
And I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

I’m talkin’ ’bout freedom
I’m talkin’ ’bout freedom
I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

Everybody talkin’ ’bout freedom
We’re talkin’ ’bout freedom
We will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

I’m talkin’ ’bout freedom
Talkin’ ’bout freedom
I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

I’m talkin’ ’bout freedom
I’m talkin’ ’bout freedom
We will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

The ISIS-claimed terror attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on May 22 that killed 23 children and adults and injured around 250 was the latest in a string of attacks on Westerners attending live music shows and nightclubs.

On November 13, 2015, ISIS terrorists attacked a concert by the Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan club in Paris, France that killed 89 as part of a complex attack on Paris that night that killed a total of 130 and wounded 368.

On June 12, 2016, an ISIS-inspired gunman slaughtered 49 people and wounded 58 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

ISIS claimed the January 1, 2017 attack on a New Year’s Eve party at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey that killed 39 and wounded 70.

The attacks were the worst (and most consistent) on Western nightlife goers since the October 12, 2002 Bali nightclub district attacks that killed 202 and injured 209.

Freedom was initially well-received when it was debuted by McCartney at the 9/11 benefit Concert for New York on October 20, 2001. Rolling Stone wrote in a concert review at the time:

It began with David Bowie, sitting Indian-style alone on the darkened Madison Square Garden stage and plunking out a warm but playful version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” on a tiny electric keyboard, and ended five hours later with Paul McCartney leading a stage full of the biggest names in entertainment and a handful of police officers and firefighters through an encore version of his new song, “Freedom.”

Both performances aptly summed up the mood of Saturday night’s sprawling Concert for New York, a benefit organized by McCartney to simultaneously aid the families of the victims of the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and honor the heroes — living and dead — among the city’s police and fire departments.

…After “Let it Be” turned into a free-for-all with Joel, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, the Who’s Roger Daltrey and the rest of the gang joining on the chorus and McCartney joyously calling on Clapton for a guitar solo, the former Beatle had everyone go through “Freedom” a second time. Off the cuff and looser-sounding than a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame all-star jam, it wasn’t technically one of rock’s greatest performances, but the joyous spirit was right in the pocket: “We will fight/For the right/To live in freedom.” Only Keith Richards, speaking earlier in the show, better summed up the resounding feeling of triumph over tragedy: “You know, I gotta feeling this town’s gonna make it!”

McCartney went on to play Freedom at a concert in Oslo,Norway on Dec 11, 2001 marking the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize; and at the Super Bowl XXXVI pre-game show in New Orleans on February 3, 2002.

McCartney played Freedom at all 50 U.S. shows (and one in Canada) of the Driving Rain/Back in the U.S. tours that ran from April 1 through October 29, 2002, according to SetListFM. The October 29, 2002 show is the last time McCartney played Freedom in concert.

The U.S. Army’s Freedom Radio station serving troops in Iraq debuted in December 2003 with Freedom as the first song played.

McCartney spoke at length about his dropping Freedom from his shows during an interview with Pitchfork published May 21, 2007.

Pitchfork: I wanted to ask about the song “Freedom”, which you wrote in the wake of 9/11. Lately dropped it from your setlist. Do you think it might come back?

McCartney: I’d very much like it to come back, because to me it’s a “We Shall Overcome”. That’s sort of how I wrote it. It’s like, “Hey, I’ve got freedom, I’m an immigrant coming to America, give me your huddled masses.” And that’s what it means to me, is, “Don’t mess with my rights, buddy. Because I’m now free. I used to live in an oppressive regime, I’m from Sierra Leone, but now I’m an American, and don’t try to take that away from me.”

And I thought it was a great sentiment, and immediately post-9/11, I thought it was the right sentiment. But it got hijacked. And it got a bit of a militaristic meaning attached itself to it, and you found Mr. Bush using that kind of idea rather a lot in [a way] I felt altered the meaning of the song.

But it was great on the tour immediately post-9/11. It was great to sing it for the American people. It was great for us, it was very healing, it was very, “Stand up and be counted.”

Pitchfork: Even at the time, some people thought it was uncharacteristically militant.

McCartney: That’s true. [But] it was not militant. It was written from the point of view of, as I say, someone coming from a repressive, like let’s say, European Jew coming to America. He just got away from Hitler. That kind of thing. Or that– in all its forms. That particularly happens in America. It happens here in the UK, but America I would reckon is global target of people escaping oppression.

Pitchfork: It’s almost like we lost the word “freedom” because of Bush.

McCartney: Well, I think that’s kind of what happened. I think it did– yeah. But I may tour America next year, I’d like to, and I am wondering whether I can sing it again. Because it certainly was very popular. But I don’t know, I don’t know.

It was very flag-waving. And in the wake of 9/11, that was sort of a good thing, because American spirit was in danger of being squashed. And I knew a lot of New Yorkers, for instance. And I knew a lot of people who would write to me and say, “I’m never going to go on an airplane again.” And for Americans to say that … but then I did a concert for New York, the 9/11 concert, that I was part of, and I got a message from some woman in Boston saying, “I’m coming to this concert, and you’ve really helped me. Because I’ve got to get on an airplane.” And there was this feeling of healing going on, you know. That somehow me and some other Brits were able to stand up and say, “Look, you know, this– you will overcome this.” And it was a feeling that we should try and help.”

And I was in New York the morning of it. I was at Kennedy, I was just about to take off, at Kennedy Airport. And then the airport closed, and I could see the Twin Towers out of the window of the airplane. And so I was then sort of stranded in America for a couple of weeks while the whole thing unfolded. So you know, I was very much in the area. And everyone was scared, man. There were rumors it was going to happen again. It was a very scary time. And a lot of people wouldn’t move, a lot of people were just too scared to do anything. So “Freedom” arose out of that. It was to try and help that, to try and unscare people, try and remind people, “Hey, this is my right, man. Don’t mess with me.”

McCartney did not return Freedom to his shows–when he played his first concert in Israel in 2008 despite Islamist death threats, nor when Bush left office in 2009 and was succeeded by McCartney favorite, President Barack Obama. McCartney did not play Freedom when he played a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in the summer of 2016.

The boldly defiant lyrics of Freedom mean just as much in 2017 as they did in 2001. McCartney is fond of the song, as are American audiences. With rock shows under Islamist terror attacks, this would be a good time for McCartney to reclaim his song of Freedom: “This is my right, a right given by God. To live a free life, to live in freedom. Talking about freedom. Talking about freedom. And I will fight for the right to live in freedom…”

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