NASHVILLE Country artists including Toby Keith, Clint Black, BR549, Vince Gill, Lonestar, Kenny Rogers, Sawyer Brown, Keith Urban and Jamie O'Neal entered a Nashville studio Tuesday (June 19) to film and record a performance of "America the Beautiful" for a Fourth of July ABC News special being produced by Norman Lear.
This year marks the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia plans a major Lear-produced celebration that will include a dramatic reading of the Declaration by a dozen actors, including Mel Gibson, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg and Kevin Spacey. Garth Brooks will sing and the Blue Man Group will interpret "The Star-Spangled Banner."
"We wanted to create a piece of music that would stand the test of time for the next 200 years," said Rob Light, head of the music division at Creative Artists Agency, which will coordinate the session.
Plans to release the song on record have not been finalized.
Lear and philanthropist David Hayden purchased a first printing of the Declaration of Independence in June 2000 for $8.1 million. It is one of 25 surviving copies of the document, and the only copy not owned by a public institution, Light said.
After buying the document, Lear announced plans to send it on a national tour. Lear hopes the recording and TV special will launch his initiative aimed at bringing the "people's document" back to the American people.
"Creative Artists is working with Norman to bring the document to schools and malls, to let people touch the foundation of America and our freedoms," Light said.
Rascal Flatts, Billy Dean, Trace Adkins, John Berry, Phil Vassar, Suzy Bogguss, the Warren Brothers, Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Little Big Town will also take part in the recording session.
Pop and contemporary-Christian participants include Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Avalon, Anointed, Zoe Girl, True Vibe, Jars of Clay and Jaci Velasquez.
Black's wife, Lisa Hartman Black, and pop singer Jewel, in Nashville to record a new album, will also lend their voices to the patriotic anthem.
A bipartisan committee chaired by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford is steering the not-for-profit Declaration of Independence Project.
"This came together very quickly, very organically," Light said of the recording session.