Thirty-six of the world’s leading musicians performing some of their biggest hits live in concert are featured in Amnesty International's latest music project, which will be released in North America on Tuesday, Nov. 5 – distributed by Shout! Factory.
The six-disc DVD box-set and companion two-disc CD set titled ¡RELEASED! present the historic Human Rights Concerts staged by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights organization in the years 1986-1998. Net proceeds from sales of the DVD set and CDs benefit Amnesty.
The release coincides with the 25th anniversary this fall of the most high-profile of all the concerts in the series – the Human Rights Now! world tour. The six-week, five-continent, 20-concert tour of the world in 1988 was headlined by Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N'Dour and was seen by over one million people in-person and experienced by millions more on television and radio. Its mission – to raise awareness of the cause – succeeded in tripling the movement’s worldwide membership.
Also featured are new in-depth interviews with Springsteen and Sting about their human works work with Amnesty.
These new DVD and CD releases also arrive just five weeks before worldwide commemorations on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, of the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the Magna Carta of the human rights cause that has inspired Amnesty’s global work for 52 years.
“Throughout our history, we at Amnesty have been the fortunate beneficiaries of the passion and generous commitment of major entertainers in helping us bring the world’s attention to the human rights cause,” said Ann Burroughs, chair of the Amnesty International USA Board of Directors, who, as an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, was held as a prisoner of conscience. “These concerts were a gigantic step forward in the enduring struggle. We are enormously grateful to all the magnificent musicians who participated in these historic concerts that once again they are helping us raise funds and awareness for the ever-vital work of our movement.”
“Musicians innately understand key components of human rights such as freedom of expression. It’s at the heart of what they do,” said Martin Lewis, producer of ¡RELEASED!. "Ever since Pete Townshend's pioneering performance for Amnesty in 1979, the rock music community has been spectacular in its support for Amnesty. These concerts broke new ground in galvanizing audiences to become involved. They fused cause and content in an inspirational way. It’s been an honor to work with Sting, Bruce, Bono, Peter and the other artists in restoring and producing these concerts for home release."
The Human Rights Concerts series comprises four films: The first film presents over five hours drawn from the all-day final concert of A Conspiracy Of Hope – Amnesty’s 25th anniversary concert tour of the USA in June 1986. The second film is of the Human Rights Now! world tour in September and October 1988. The third film is An Embrace Of Hope – the October 1990 concert in Chile celebrating that nation’s liberation after 17 years of dictatorship. The fourth and final film is The Struggle Continues… – the concert staged in Paris in 1998 on the exact 50th anniversary of the signing in that city of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The DVD set contains 120 songs extending over 12 hours of disc time. The set also contains 32 additional segments featuring contextual content and additional music performances that together comprise almost 5 hours of supplementary features. The full running time of the box-set is just 12 minutes short of 17 hours.
Three of the four concerts have never been issued before in any video or audio format. In the mode of that era’s Live Aid concert they were seen just once on TV – and were not subsequently made available for home enjoyment. The fourth film, from 1998, had a limited VHS & DVD release 14 years ago and has been long unavailable. Of the 16 hours and 48 minutes of content on the DVD box-set, over 14 hours has never previously been available on DVD or home video or audio in North America.
The DVD box-set consists of six discs, plus a 40-page booklet with rare archival photographs and extensive liner notes, including a 10,000 word essay on the history of the concerts.
Also being released is a two-disc CD presenting 30 highlight performances from across the four concerts.
A key organizational figure in the first three events of the Human Rights Concerts series was Jack Healey, executive director of Amnesty International USA between 1981-1993. The 1986 U.S. tour and 1988 world tour were co-produced with seasoned rock promoter Bill Graham. The 1998 Paris concert was organized by Amnesty planning officer Blair Gibb and Peter Gabriel.
The Human Rights Concerts have been restored and produced for release by longtime (37 years) Amnesty activist and producer Martin Lewis – who was co-creator (with John Cleese) of Amnesty’s Secret Policeman’s Ball series and co-producer of all the ‘Ball’ shows, movies, TV specials and albums between 1976-1985. Lewis began Amnesty’s outreach to rock musicians by recruiting and producing Pete Townshend, Sting, Bob Geldof and many other musicians. Lewis and former Amnesty USA leader Jack Healey together conceived Amnesty’s 1988 world tour.
The companion content includes 17 sequences under the collective title Context On The Human Rights Concerts. Among the segments:
• Light A Candle! – a brand-new documentary about the concert series featuring new exclusive interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bono, Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend and others.
• New, stand-alone, in-depth interviews with Bruce Springsteen and Sting about their support for Amnesty
• Peter Gabriel’s home movies of the 1986 Amnesty tour featuring backstage moments and an historic jam
• Special messages in support of Amnesty from some of the world’s leading entertainers
The companion content also features 15 additional music sequences. Two key performances from the Secret Policeman’s Ball series by Pete Townshend and Sting that helped inspired the Human Rights Concerts and thirteen new performances given for Amnesty in the last ten years by major music stars that represent part of the legacy of the concert series. The performers for Amnesty from the last decade include: Green Day, Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, Jeff Beck, Seal, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Perry, Bono, Damien Rice, Pete Seeger, Evan Rachel Wood and David Byrne.
The ¡RELEASED! DVD box-set and companion CD will be distributed in North America by Shout! Factory. Outside North America, the DVD box-set and four companion CD sets will be distributed by Eagle-Rock Entertainment.(Product release dates outside North America vary by territory between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1).
On Sunday, Nov. 3, The American Cinematheque in Los Angeles (Aero Theatre, Santa Monica at 3:00pm) will present the World Premieres of ¡RELEASED! a 95-minute film of highlights from the concerts and LIGHT A CANDLE! the 40-minute documentary about the history of the series. Special guests at the screening will be Andy Summers of The Police and ¡RELEASED! producer Martin Lewis among others.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, The Museum of Modern Art will present the New York Premieres of the two films. The MoMA Premiere takes place on International Human Rights Day at 7:00pm.