(Washington, D.C.) October 4, 2016 — Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees begins Thursday and will be headlined by Grammy Award-winning artists Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, and The Milk Carton Kids. Robert Plant, Joan Baez, and Ron Sexsmith are joining the Lampedusa tour in select cities, with Ruby Amanfu and Nancy And Beth also performing during a few of the concerts.
Patty Griffin, one of the driving forces behind the tour, has reluctantly withdrawn due to health issues. “I hope that none of you have second thoughts about going to the shows after hearing this news,” she said. “With this amazing group of people (now including my friend Robert on seven of the dates — stepping in to fill my chair — haha), this show is going to be beyond great.”
“When I heard that some of my friends were rallying to do a series of concerts to help raise funds and awareness, to help address the basic needs of food, shelter and medical care, I wanted to help,” said Robert Plant. Mr. Plant had a hugely successful career with Led Zeppelin before embarking on an equally impressive and Grammy-winning career as a solo artist.
The tour is a benefit for Jesuit Refugee Service’s Global Education Initiative, which was launched in 2015 and endorsed by Pope Francis. JRS seeks to double the number of refugees served in its educational programs by 2020 to 240,000. JRS services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
“This cause is very near and dear to me,” said Ms. Griffin. “This is a humanitarian issue, a situation in which everyone who is capable has to join efforts to support all of our fellow humans in need.”
Lampedusa is an Italian island off the coast of Sicily that serves as a waypoint in a refugee’s search for safety and security. It was the site of the first visit Pope Francis made outside Rome, and was chosen by him as a visible sign of concern for refugees making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.
"When I watch the news and see people from these places being displaced by hatred and ignorance, I know that these people are just like you and me. All they want is to live in peace and have their children grow up loved, fed and educated,” said Mr. Plant.
Funds raised by Lampedusa will support educational programs for refugees around the world. “Education is the one life-saving intervention offered to displaced people that cannot be taken away,” notes JRS International Director Fr. Thomas H. Smolich S.J.
“We are all fundamentally connected, in beautiful and mysterious ways,” said Ms. Griffin, “all one family of humans. If we ignore our family members when they are suffering, that serves no one and nothing. I don’t think suffering can ever be avoided as one lives a life. I think one of the greatest balms for this is tending to others in need.”
Joan Baez has spent her career on service to the cause of human rights. Ms. Baez has been as busy as ever since she celebrated the landmark years of 2008-2009, the 50th anniversaries of her legendary residency in 1958 at the famed Club 47 in Cambridge, and her subsequent debut at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival.
In addition to multiple tours of the U.S. and abroad, the recent past has included the induction of Joan’s 1960 debut Vanguard LP by the National Recording Academy into the Grammy® Hall Of Fame and the presentation to her of the inaugural Joan Baez Award for Outstanding Inspirational Service in the Global Fight for Human Rights at Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary gathering in 2012.
She remains a musical force of nature whose influence is incalculable – marching on the front line of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King, inspiring Vaclav Havel in his fight for a Czech Republic, singing on the first Amnesty International tour and more recently, standing alongside Nelson Mandela when the world celebrated his 90th birthday in London’s Hyde Park.
She shined a spotlight on the Free Speech Movement, took to the fields with Cesar Chavez, organized resistance to the Vietnam War, then forty years later saluted the Dixie Chicks for their courage to protest the Iraq war. Her earliest recordings fed a host of traditional ballads into the rock vernacular, before she unselfconsciously introduced Bob Dylan to the world in 1963, beginning a tradition of mutual mentoring that continues to this day.
The term “songwriter’s songwriter” is tossed about often enough to almost be a cliché. But when you’re Ron Sexsmith and among the people singing your praises – and your songs – are Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Chris Martin, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Michael Buble, Sheryl Crow, it’s a well-deserved accolade.
Raised in the Niagara Falls area, Ron started his first band as a teenager. Marrying young and becoming a father inspired him to write his own music. After moving to Toronto, he began releasing original songs on cassette.
Ron signed with Interscope and his Mitchell Froom-produced album debuted in 1995. Two more albums followed then Ron connected with Linus Entertainment. They released Blue Boy, an album produced by Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy, and Cobblestone Runway, which featured a duet with Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
Ron’s seventh album, Retriever, was the first for Warner Canada (with whom he remains in partnership), followed by Time Being and Exit Strategy of the Soul. In 2011, Ron turned to Bob Rock, resulting in his most successful album, Long Player Late Bloomer. Mitchell Froom produced Forever Endeavour and in 2015, Ron enlisted veteran engineer, Jim Scott, to helm Carousel One.
Throughout his career, Ron has toured the world many times over, headlining London’s Royal Albert Hall and other great venues. His dream gig of headlining Toronto’s Massey Hall was achieved in 2006 and he has done so for every album release since then. His return to that stage in such illustrious company for a great cause is one Ron looks forward to with great anticipation.
Whether on Beyonce’s new album Lemonade, or singing her own songs, Ghana-born and Nashville-based singer/songwriter Ruby Amanfu’s voice is one you only have to hear once to remember forever. Not an artist to be pegged, Amanfu’s musical style knows no boundaries.
After attending Berklee College of Music, Amanfu found herself in Scandinavia and London, where she released her first solo album, Smoke & Honey in 2003, whose chart-topping single “Sugah” reached number three on Billboard's air play charts.
After an extended period overseas, Ruby returned home to Nashville and focused her attention on songwriting. Her songs have been cut by a variety of acts both in America and Europe including Kelly Clarkson, Lene Nystrom, Sanne Salomonsen, Rachael Lampa, and The Duhks. She also became part of the critically acclaimed duo, Sam & Ruby w/ Sam Brooker.
In 2007, Amanfu earned Grammy recognition for “Heaven’s My Home” by way of the Canadian band, The Duhks, which she co-wrote with Katie Herzig. The following year, Sam & Ruby’s own recording of the song was also featured in a pivotal scene in the much-anticipated film adaptation of the New York Times’ best-seller, “The Secret Life of Bees," while Sam & Ruby’s Rykodisc-released 2009 album, The Here & The Now was named the #1 Album of the Year by the Associated Press.
Amanfu has always been inspired by the art of collaboration. Most recently, her powerful vocals infused Beyonce’s track, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” from the album, Lemonade. She has also lent her vocals to Jack White, most recognizably on his debut single, "Love Interruption" as well as throughout both of his solo albums, Blunderbuss and Lazaretto. Recordings of Ruby with such other artists as Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes), Sara Bareilles, Ben Folds and Hozier can be heard throughout the airwaves and on YouTube.
For Amanfu's most recent solo album, Standing Still she put the pen mostly to rest and instead interpreted songs of other writers ranging from Brandi Carlile to Woody Guthrie to Kanye West.
As a performer, Amanfu has traveled far and wide, from Rockefeller Plaza in New York City appearing twice on Saturday Night Live, to Fuji Rock Festival in Tokyo.
Five record deals and two publishing deals later, Ruby is enjoying creative freedom as she prepares for the release of her next solo album, co-written and produced by Ryan Adams. She is ever inspired and grateful for the abundant opportunities she has been given to continue to create and inspire through music.
Nancy And Beth is an inventive new band featuring Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt, as well as five other accomplished musicians including vocalist and violinist Petra Haden. Tight harmonies, witty choreography, and songs from every genre and era are coupled with relaxed humor to form an inventive and celebratory musical experience.
This special guest appearance will feature a down-home, unplugged version of Nancy And Beth: Megan and Stephanie on vocals and ukulele — sans band — singing a curated repertoire of folk, country and blues... with maybe a few surprises! Their eponymous first record will be released spring of 2017.
The concerts start Thursday in Boulder and cross the continent before finishing in Washington, D.C. The complete list of dates and appearances can be found here.