Free success is relative.
the song that counts, not getting rice and famous,” he said. “I’d
rather sing before 50 people who got the message than 10,000 who
far more than just any singer though. He is also an environmental
activist, Native American and veterans’ rights activist and
an ASCAP Award winner, who writes and sings songs with a message.
new CD “Rivers, Rails and Tales,” from Fraternity Records
has just been released, and he’ll be at Disk Jockey records
at Cedar Knoll Galleria at 3 p.m. Saturday to promote it.
songs deal with everything from human rights and world problems
to the human relationships related in love ballads, sung in a unique
lot of places don’t know how to market me because they say
I’m so diverse,” said Free. “So I tell
them, that’s the way to market me, as diverse.”
is that diversity that makes Free a cool change, as refreshing
as clear blue water flowing across the green meadows he tries to
protect as an environmental activist.
a tour of duty in Vietnam, Free attended The Ohio State University
and earned a degree in literature and history. He taught
for a while but realized it wasn’t really what he wanted
to do, so he started putting some of his poetry to music. He’s
followed a long road to this place in his life.
1994 and 1995, the American Society of Composers (ASCAP) awarded
Free $1000—in 1994 of his album “No Regrets” and
in ’95 for the single “Siege at Lucasville,” which
made the Cash Box Top 100 country singles chart.
at Lucasville” was written about the prison riot at Lucasville,
OH, in April 1993. Although Free didn’t write the song
until the following September, it didn’t take long getting
on the charts.
write my songs as a story teller, not as out and out protest songs,” he
said. “I try to write song that mean different things
to different people. Folk artists don’t care if they
get rich and famous. It’s the song that matters. I
don’t play because of the money. If the money is there,
that’s great, but that’s not why I play.”
of Free’s songs to reach the charts was a love song titled “Theresa’s
Eyes,” written about his former drummer and his girlfriend.
was born on Duck Run
in Scioto County, but grew up outside an Indian reservation in
Arizona. His Appalachian roots and Native American heritage
come alive in several songs on his new CD, like “Let Us Pray,” about
the arrest of Indians who were praying at Serpent Mound in Adams
County at sunrise last year. He recently received a letter
for one of them thanking him for writing it.
Skies” is another song about this area and the environmental
beauty of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. “One Day
Pilgrim” is about the homeless, telling how it could happen
in several organizations, Free is a member of the Ohio Arts Presenters
Network and performs in schools and on college campuses.
can get the message across and have fun in the process,” Free
said. “Kids will sometimes get the message quicker
participation is a big part of the fun. “Ancient Voices/Modern
Song” is an Indian chant that has a lot of audience appeal. The
audience first sings the Indian chant and then the meaning of the
chant in English; in the second verse Mother Earth speaks.
last week, Free received a letter from the office of Ohio Gov.
George Voinovich and the Board of the Ohio Arts Council congratulating
him on being nominated for the Governor’s Award for the Arts
board member of the Appalachian Ohio Rural Action Network, an environmental
organization, Free presented some important messages during a free
environmental concert in Massie Hall at Shawnee State University
in December, 1994. During that concert the free tree program
recruited volunteers and collected donations for trees for the
1995 Arbor Day giveaway. Portsmouth Mayor Franklin Gerlach
declared Dec. 10, 1994, as Steve Free Day in Portsmouth for his
environmental activities and music accomplishments.
also is a member of HO-WA-NE-BA-KE-CHE, a Native American Organization
of the Loyal Shawnee Tribe to which he dedicated “Panther
in the Sky” a song about Tecumseh.
is not a sign-toting 1960’s rebel, however. He is
a 1990’s entertainer who believes his words can bring attention
to things that need to be changed. He hopes he can broaden
the public’s view about important issues.
not a radical,” Free said. “I’m just a
guy who has something to say and wants to sing his songs and better
his world at the same time. The most important thing is to
make people have a good time.”
try and make it fun and sneak in a serious song every now and then. I
hope this new CD will establish me as a songwriter. It’s
more mellow and people will find out I can write about subjects
that aren’t all environmental.”
the Rails” the single from the new CD is being shipped to
Radio stations. Another from the CD “Evil Woman,” which
deals with drug abuse, has been included in a rock music CD compilation
by Rodell Records, Hollywood, Calif., titled “Songs From the
Underground,” which includes groups from Canada, South Africa,
Japan and Israel, all artists with styles a little off center.
Thursday night Free performs at Ye Olde Lantern in the Historic
Boneyfiddle area of Portsmouth, when he isn’t on the road
of playing at schools and colleges. In March, he will be
performing in New York City at the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame
ceremonies. Then he will travel to Henry Ford College in
Detroit and on to Imaginator Theater in Chicago.