Memphis Tennessee is probably the most important city with regard to the development of popular music. It’s the home of the king of Rock and Roll, it’s one of the birthplaces of the blues, it marks the gateway to the Dirty South, and and it’s the birthplace of many influential rappers and rap styles. Soul, R&B, gospel, funk, jazz, rockabilly, psychedelia: there’s hardly any American musical style that isn’t being done in Memphis, and being done well.
Richard Cushing is Memphis to the core: he’s traditional but always creative, soulful, spiritual, imaginative, and welcoming. His band, FreeWorld, is literally part of the city’s streetscape – they have a Brass Note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame. They’ve toured the country, performed alongside the likes of Levon Helm, Bootsy Collins, Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks, and many other notables, and all the while they’ve flown the flag for Memphis music, however it’s presented. FreeWorld, like Memphis itself, is a diverse range of influences and approaches with a seamless harmony of parts that shouldn’t, at first glance, go together. But they see this as their strength, and aren’t shy to say so.
‘D-Up (Here’s To Diversity)’, is an anthem written on behalf of cross-cultural co-operation, and it does double duty as a love letter to Memphis herself. It’s been an important part of the FreeWorld repertoire for over two decades, and it kicked off ‘Live From Memphis’, their fiery 2003 concert set which established the group as formidable musicians. For 2021, Cushing and the band have reimagined their signature song as a collective effort, seeing more than thirty of Memphis’ best-loved musicians taking turns at playing and singing lines of ‘D-Up’, at the same time pledging their allegiance to their city and to the diversity and creativity that has always made Memphis’s music stand apart. We see among the crew, the Godfather of Memphis rap, Al Kapone, soul singer-songwriter Hope Clayburn, Tierinii Jackson and Ori Naftaly, from the Blues Music Award winning band Southern Avenue, internationally acclaimed vocal powerhouse Wendy Moten, queen of Memphis jazz vocalists, Joyce Cobb, Grammy Award winning zydeco artist Terrance Simien, and his daughter Marcella, slide guitar master Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi Allstars: many other notable artists from Memphis are also featured on the track. Each contributes something that’s distinctively theirs, while remaining proudly part of the collective. It’s the musical equivalent of a group hug and a startling display of musical ability. It’s love.
Watch the music video for ‘D-Up (Here’s To Diversity)’ below, and find out more about FreeWorld and their music online on their official website.