Delaney & Bonnie

Free the People

Song Review by

"Free the People" opens with New Orleans-style marching band horns, and the gospel elements of the tune immediate reveal themselves when Bonnie Bramlett begins by singing the chorus on her own, prior to the first verse. Liner note writer Joe Tortelli, who compiled The Best of Delaney & Bonnie for Rhino, had to be coy to get this essential flip of the "Soul Shake" single (Atco number 6756) onto the aforementioned collection -- it seems Delaney & Bonnie were not happy with this exquisite moment in their career. The May 1970-released 45 and its A-side, "Soul Shake," received limited airplay and were minor hits, "Free the People" such a key tune that Barbara Streisand covered it on her 1971 LP classic, Stoney End. Delaney Bramlett takes the second verse, the singer and his wife's vocal instruments making solo cameos on what is a powerful Southern church-style celebration which really kicks in after Delaney's moment, a majestic onslaught with piano and all the band's voices bursting behind the guitar and horns on this two-minute-and-42-second mini epic. In September of 2002 songwriter Barbara Keith said about the creation of her "Free the People": "I don't think there was any specific event that triggered the writing of that song -- as I often say, I almost never write anything 'on purpose'. But I imagine early years of singing in choirs at school, gospel influences, reading poetry, all mixed together with emotions regarding the human condition brought it into being." After being asked about the tune, the songwriter, now with Barbara Keith and the Stone Coyotes, noted: "Interestingly, we are just now manufacturing a new album that includes a new rendition of 'Free the People' -- also 'The Bramble and the Rose' from the same era of my songwriting." The 1970 performance was a superb attempt to bring a traditional sound into the mainstream, its perfection so compact the world is a lesser place for not having this little gem infiltrating oldies radio on a regular basis.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
To Bonnie from Delaney 1970 Wounded Bird 2:46
Medicine Ball Caravan 1971
Original Soundtrack
Wounded Bird 3:20
The Best of Delaney & Bonnie 1990 Rhino 2:46
Rhino Hi-Five: Delaney & Bonnie 2005 Atco / Elektra / Rhino 2:46