One of the last tracks the late Levon Helm appeared on is set to be released on May 8 as a tribute to Amnesty International. The track celebrates the organization’s 50th anniversary and is titled “Toast to Freedom.” The song’s release is set to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, and nearly 50 guest stars and musicians appear on the song including Ewan McGregor, Kris Kristofferson, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Carly Simon, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull and Rosanne Cash.
Work on the song began last year when producer Carl Carlton and entrepreneur and former music industry executive Jochen Wilms came up with the idea and co-wrote the commemorative song. Over the summer, Helm and his longtime friend and producer Larry Campbell tracked a number of instrumental and vocal lines in his home studio in Woodstock, N.Y.
“When we recorded the original rhythm track for this, it was such a great day,” Campbell told the Associated Pressstory.html_. “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.”
The Arts for Amnesty Band, which features Campbell, Kristofferson and Jonny Lang according to NBC, will perform “Toast to Freedom” on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno this Thursday night.
Said Campbell, “[Helm] would’ve been out there on the Leno show had circumstances been different…I just feel like his spirit was so much in line with the spirit of this song that he’ll be missed when we do it.”
Pre-orders for “Toast to Freedom” are available via “Toast of Freedom” site. Check out the full-length video and the making-of clip below.