The Tennessee Freedom Singers’ new anthem is a symphony of good trouble - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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Late statesman and American civil rights leader John Lewis famously said: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic… Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

It’s a call that has echoed through the ages from artists like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and Iris DeMent—artists renowned for channeling the spirit good trouble through their songs. And on March 13th, the Tennessee Freedom Singers added a new anthem to the cannon: “Tennessee Rise,” a soul-stirring blend of voices for justice and equality, featuring some of the greatest artists of our time.

Organized by Allison Russel and recorded in Nashville’s iconic Sound Emporium Studio, the project draws together luminaries like Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Devon Gilfillian, Mary Gauthier, Langhorne Slim, Emmylou Harris, and more, into a formidable chorus advocating for social change.

The Strength of Harmonies and Star Power

When many voices unite in song, there’s an undeniable alchemy at play—a conjuring of communal spirit and shared purpose. If you watched The Greatest Night in Pop, the recent documentary about the making of “We Are The World,” you understand the power of having so many stars singing together for one cause.

“Tennessee Rise” channels this same energy. Released with a film of the live recording, the song is a visceral experience from the opening harmonies singing: “Hello California morning, Hello Mississippi dawn.” The joy, skill, pain, and soul emanating from the performance is a testament to the collaborative force of its creators.

Tennessee Freedom Singers with Rep. Gloria Johnson | photo courtesy of the artist

A Political Song In a Time of Division

Amidst the fractious backdrop of contemporary American politics, “Tennessee Rise” emerges as a clarion call to compassion and solidarity. Inspired by the Tennessee Three—members of the House of Representatives faced with expulsion for joining a protest on gun reform last year—the song leverages the collective influence of Nashville’s finest to underscore the urgency of democratic engagement.

While harnessing music as a vehicle for political mobilization isn’t new, this collaboration is the first of its kind to overtly use music as a show of support for political candidates who support social justice reform — including one of the Tennessee Three, Gloria Johnson, and her campaign for US Senate.

“Tennessee Rise” Lyrics: A Manifesto for Change

The lyrics of “Tennessee Rise” weave a narrative of awakening, resistance, and hope, reflecting on the dual nature of progress, as illustrated by passages like:

I got joy in my heart this morning 
I got trouble on my mind 
Yes my people know how to feel two ways
About something at the very same time

The song is both an homage to the enduring legacy of the Freedom Riders like John Lewis, and a reminder of music’s role as a catalyst for change and a call for unity in the pursuit of justice and peace.

Watch the video for “Tennessee Rise”

"Tennessee Rise" by The Tennessee Freedom Singers

Tennessee Rise Lyrics: 
Hello California Morning, Hello Mississippi Dawn.
Tennessee Rise, the sleep out of your eyes
You thought tomorrow’d never come
How you wanna ride this wave mmmmm
Depends what frequency you’re on
Go and make yourself known
I got joy in my heart this morning
I got trouble on my mind
Yes my people know how to feel two ways
About something at the very same time
Yeah the joy’s for the new day coming
Yeah the trouble’s for that too
Cause we’ve come so far / sooo far
But there’s so much left to do.

Hello California Morning, Hello Mississippi Dawn.
Tennessee Rise, the sleep out of your eyes
You thought tomorrow’d never come
How you wanna ride this wave mmmmm
Depends what frequency you’re on
Go and make yourself known
Tomorrow knows their own
Oh the Freedom Riders calling
Told us all to carry on
To be the ones, to be the ones
We shall not be overcome
Oh that long long Arc of Justice
That long long Arc of Peace
We Trouble these waters to be released
Come together now Tennessee
Oh The Trail of Tears is still rolling
Ole Tennessee waltzing in blood
My daughter can’t sleep for the nightmares
Every night she’s gunned down at school
Everyday she sings her wild anthems
She beats her fears out on her drums
Now she’s a wolf cub yeah she’s Harriet Tubman
Can we be brave as our children?

Hello California Morning, Hello Mississippi Dawn.
Tennessee rise, the sleep out of our eyes
You thought tomorrow’d never come
How you wanna ride this wave mmmmm
Depends what frequency you’re on
(Go and make yourself known
Tomorrow knows their own ) x 2

The full list of artists include: Allison Russell, Amanda Shires, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Brandi Carlile, Brittany Howard, Brittney Spencer, Brooke Eden, Denitia, Devon Gilfillian, Elizabeth Cook, Emmylou Harris, Erin Rae, Fancy Hagood, Jaimee Harris, Julie Williams, Kam Franklin, Katie Pruitt, Kyshona Armstrong, Langhorne Slim, Lilly Winwood, Lucie Silvas, Maren Morris, Mary Gauthier, Meghan Linsey, Meghan McCormick, Mya Byrne, MORGXN, Paul McDonald, Phillip-Michael Scales, Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, Sara Van Buskirk, Shelly Colvin, Tre Burt and Wade Sapp.

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