Let Freedom Ring! A Concert to Benefit Free the Slaves

Since its founding in 1847, Plymouth Church has been a sanctuary for the ideals of freedom. The congregation and its renowned minister, Henry Ward Beecher, created a public forum for the abolition movement, changing hearts and minds across America and overseas. Plymouth was also a place of action, known to insiders as “the Grand Central Depot” of New York City’s Underground Railroad, and a major funder of the abolition fight in Kansas and Civil War regiments from Brooklyn. After the war, Plymouth was heavily involved in supporting educational and social services for former slaves.

Continuing its legacy of freedom, Plymouth had the honor of presenting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in February 1963, speaking on “The American Dream” just six months before the March on Washington.

Together with this concert, Plymouth’s current initiatives in fighting modern-day slavery include the Underground Thrift Store (which gives 25% of net proceeds to organizations fighting human trafficking), tours of our National Historic Landmark site, and other fundraising and educational programs.

For more information on Free the Slaves, please go to: http://www.freetheslaves.net

For more information on Plymouth Church, please go to: http://plymouthchurch.org

The Impressions

The Impressions originally formed in 1958 in Chicago. The group was founded as The Roosters by Chattanooga, TN, natives Sam Gooden, Richard Brooks and Arthur Brooks, who moved to Chicago and added Jerry Butler and Curtus Mayfield to their line-up to become Jerry Butler & the Impressions. By 1962, Butler and the Brookses had departed, and after switching to ABC-Paramount Records, Mayfield, Gooden, and new Impression Fred Cash collectively became a top-selling soul act. Mayfield left the group for a solo career in 1970; Leroy Hutson, Ralph Johnson, Reggie Torian, Sammy Fender and Nate Evans were among the replacements who joined Gooden and Cash. Inductees into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, The Impressions are best known for their 1960s string of hits, many of which were heavily influenced by gospel music and served as inspirational anthems for the Civil Righys Movement. They are also 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame inductees for their hit “People get ready” and are winners of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award in 2000.

Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield met while singing in the same Chicago Church choir After singing in a number of local gospel groups, the two of them joined a doo-wop group called "The Roosters" in 1957, whose members included Chattanooga, TN, natives Sam Gooden, Richard Brooks and his brother Arthur Brooks. By 1958, The Roosters had a new manager in Eddie Thomas, a record deal with Vee-Jay Records, and a new name: Jerry Butler & the Impressions.
The group's first hit single was 1958's "For Your Precious Love", which hit #11 on the US pop charts and #3 on the R&B charts. However, soon after the release of the R&B Top 30 hit "Come Back My Love", Butler left the group to go on to a successful solo career. After briefly touring with the now-solo Butler as his guitarist, Curtis Mayfield became the group's new lead singer and songwriter and Fred Cash, a returning original Roosters member, was appointed as the new fifth member.

The Impressions got a new deal with ABC-Paramount Records in 1961, and released their first post-Butler single. That single, "Gypsy Woman", was their biggest single to date, hitting #2 on the R&B charts and #20 on the pop chart. Successive singles failed to match "Gypsy Woman"'s success, and Richard and Arthur Brooks ended up leaving the group in 1962.
The Impressions continued as a trio, and soon aligned themselves with producer johnny Pate, who helped to update their sound and create a more lush soul sound for the group. The result was “It's all right,” a 1963 million-selling gold single that topped the R&B charts and made it to #4 on the pop charts, and became one of the group's signature songs. “It's All Right” and "Gypsy Woman" were the anchors of The Impressions' first LP, 1963's The Impressions.

1964 brought the first of Mayfield's black pride anthem compositions, “Keep on Pushing”, which became a Top 10 smash on both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts, peaking at #10 Pop. It was the title cut from the album of the same name, which also reached the Top 10 on both charts. Future Mayfield compositions would feature an increasingly social and political awareness, including the following year's major hit and the group's best-known song, the gospel-influenced “People get ready", which hit #3 on the R&B charts and #14 on the pop charts.

In the mid-1960s, The Impressions, were compared with Motown acts such as The Temptations, The Miracles and The Four Tops. After 1965's "Woman's Got Soul", and the #7 pop hit "Amen", The Impressions failed to reach the R&B Top Ten for three more years, finally scoring in 1968 with the #9 "I Loved and Lost". “We're a winner,” which hit #1 on the R&B charts that same year, represented a new level of social awareness in Mayfield's music. Mayfield created his own label, Curtom, and moved The Impressions to the label. Over the next two years, more Impressions message tracks, including the #1 R&B hit "Choice of Colors” (1969) and the #3 "Check Out Your Mind" (1970), became big hits for the group.

It should also be noted that 'The Impressions' were a huge influence on Bob Marley and The Wailers and other ska/rocksteady groups in Jamaica: The Wailers modeled their singing/harmony style on them and in part borrowed their look, too. There are many covers of Impressions songs by The Wailers, including 'Keep On Moving', 'Long Long Winter' and 'Just Another Dance'. Pat Kelly covered 'Soulful Love' and The Heptones covered 'I've Been Trying'. No doubt the social consciousness of Curtis Mayfield's lyrics appealed as well as the spectacular harmonies.

After the release of the Check Out Your Mind LP in 1970, Mayfield left the group and began a successful solo career, the highlight of which was writing and producing the “Super Fly” soundtrack. He continued to write and produce for The Impressions, who remained on Curtom. Leroy Hutson was the first new lead singer for the group following Mayfield's departure, but success eluded The Impressions, and Hutson left the group in 1973.

New members Ralph Johnson and Reggie Torian replaced Hutson, and The Impressions had three R&B Top 5 singles in 1974–1975: the #1 "Finally Got Myself Together (I'm a Changed Man)" (which also reached the Pop top 20 ) , and the #3 singles "Same Thing it Took" and "Sooner or Later". In 1976, The Impressions left Curtom and Mayfield behind for Cotillion Records and had their final major hit with "Loving Power".

The Impressions were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. The members who got to take part in this honor, as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, were Sam Gooden, Jerry Butler, Richard Brooks, Curtis Mayfield, Arthur Brooks, and Fred Cash.

In 2008, Universal Music & Hip O Records released Movin' On Up - the first-ever video compilation of The Impressions, featuring brand new interviews with original Impressions members Sam Gooden and Fred Cash, along with taped interviews with the late Curtis Mayfield and video performances of the group's greatest hits and several of Mayfield's solo hits.

The group's first million-selling hit song "For Your Precious Love" is ranked #327 on the Rollin Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of all Time,and their hit People Get Ready is ranked #24 on that same list. The latter song has also been chosen as one of the Top 10 Best Songs Of All Time by a panel of 20 top industry songwriters and producers, including Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and others, as reported to Britain's Mojo music magazine.

Today's Impressions consist of Fred Cash, Sam Gooden and Reggie Torian. In 2011, English fans celebrated the first ever public shows by the Impressions in Manchester and London, backed by the Curtom Orchestra. That same year, the Impressions also performed at the official concert for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Impressions returned to the UK in 2012 and performed in Madrid, Spain, at the Black is Back Festival.
In July 2013, they released their first single in more than 30 years, the Curtis-Mayfield penned hit for Major Lance, "Rhythm," produced by Binky Griptite of the Dap-Kings and arranged by Johnny Pate.

Daptone Recording Artists Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens

“If gospel is a great American art form, Naomi Shelton should be considered a national treasure.” - Washington Post

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens have been added to the Let Freedom Ring! concert January 11, which will take place at Plymouth Church. They join Rock & Roll Hall of Famers the Impressions and members of Brooklyn's own all-star group the Dap-Kings. NPR.org has said, "Naomi Shelton is gruff and she takes no guff."

Sanctified soul sister Naomi Shelton rose to prominence in her late sixties as a member of Daptone records' retro-rooted soul/funk stable, along with her backing group the Gospel Queens, but her pedigree as a performer of both sacred and secular music stretches back much farther than that.

Born Naomi Davis Shelton, in Midway, AL, she began singing in her Baptist church at an early age. After graduating high school in 1958, she moved first to New York, then spent time in Florida, where the greats of the burgeoning soul movement -- including Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Lou Rawls -- inspired her to try her hand at singing secular R&B; she soon became a regular winner at a local talent show. In 1963 she settled back in New York and landed a regular gig playing three sets a night at Brooklyn's Night Cap. There she met pianist Cliff Driver, who would be her musical mentor and co-conspirator, on and off, and eventually, some three decades years later, the musical director of the Gospel Queens.

That group came together in the late '90s, by which point Driver had been off the scene for nearly 20 years, although Shelton never stopped singing, in both clubs (as Naomi Davis) and churches. In 1999, Driver got back in touch and invited her to become the new lead singer in a vocal group he'd been working with, and they began performing around New York, soon catching the attention of Gabriel Roth, then the head of Desco Records. Roth invited the pair to a recording session with the Desco house band, which yielded the "41st Street Breakdown" '45 (credited to Naomi Davis & the Knights of Forty First Street) and a couple of sought-after unreleased tracks.

When Desco folded and Daptone arose in its wake, Davis remained in the fold, appearing live as part of the "Daptone Super-Soul Revue" contributing her vocals to a song by the Sugarman Three that was issued as a single, but it took nearly a decade for before Naomi & Gospel Queens got around to making a recording of their own.

2009 saw the release of What Have You Done, My Brother?, a full-length arranged by Driver, featuring members of the Dap-Tones, and split between versions of gospel classics and soulful originals penned by Roth under his Bosco Mann alias.

The Inspirational Voices of the Abyssinian Baptist Church

The Inspirational Voices of Abyssinian Baptist Church is the resident choir of one of the most prominent African-American institutions in America. Under the leadership of its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, the Abyssinian Baptist Church has followed the African-American church tradition of actively building communities, and remains a champion of spiritual empowerment, social justice and reform. The church is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary, “Abyssinian 200: True to Our God, True to our Native Land”, a tribute to its contributions to the American cultural landscape over two centuries.

$25.00 - $150.00


This is a benefit concert, produced by the non-profit, Plymouth Church. Proceeds from the event will directly benefit Free The Slaves. Free the Slaves works on the ground with liberators around the world doing what it takes to free men, women and children and help them stay free. Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. The tax-deductible portion of the concert ticket is the cost less $39 per ticket. Plymouth Church is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. For more information, http://www.plymouthchurch.org/ VIP tickets include access to a VIP pre-concert reception.

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