“Shut Up and Dance” uses music to tell story of free speech

“Shut Up and Dance” uses music to tell story of free speech

“We live in a time of great political polarization when people tend to shout each other down rather than listen to each other,” The Writer and Director of “Shut Up and Dance” Ken Paulson said.

“Shut and Dance” is coming to the University of North Alabama to celebrate free speech through different genres of music.

The concert will be on March 18 in Norton Auditorium at 6 p.m.

It is intended for people to listen and learn about the motivation and censorship in the untold stories of some of America’s famous songs, according to mtsu.edu.

“This show celebrates the role freedom of speech plays in protecting our democracy,” Paulson said. “This show is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It melds America’s core principles with some of the biggest hits of the past half-century, played by a band of some of Nashville’s finest musicians.”

The “Shut Up and Dance” band consists of young, talented musicians who have appeared with well-known artists like Eminem and Kacey Musgraves. Some of the members have even been on singing competition shows like The Voice or American Idol.

He said that throughout America’s history, music has played a pivotal role in changing this country for the better.

“Moving anthems and pop songs helped fuel the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the environmental movement and so many other fights for equality and justice,” Paulson said. “The show tells the story of our most fundamental freedoms through the music of everyone from the Beatles to Beyoncé.”

“Shut up and Dance” is a new program of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University and its 1 for All program designed to build understanding and support for the First Amendment.

“The name ‘Shut Up and Dance’ was inspired by a woman named Eartha Kitt, a prominent actress and dancer in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” Paulson said. “During the height of the Vietnam War, Eartha was invited to the White House for a luncheon and told the First Lady “Ladybird” Johnson that the war was immoral. The press reported that Eartha had upset the First Lady and Eartha’s career in America dried up overnight.”

People wanted her to shut up and dance, just as they have told others to shut up and sing or shut up and dribble, Paulson said. He dedicates the show to everyone with the courage to share their views, regardless of the consequences.

“I think the First Amendment is the most important value of our society because it protects our self-governance, our religion, our individuality and our freedom to explore intellectual and artistic pursuits,” Associate Professor of Communication Janet McMullen said. “It is inconvenient at times, especially when communication we don’t like is at issue.”

She said other people’s interpretation of the First Amendment depends on important definitions and responsibilities.

“What is speech?” McMullen asked. “What is an idea? What happens when citizens are not informed or don’t want to be informed? What is the responsibility of media to be objective, truthful, self-disclosing and draw clear lines between news and commentary?”

She said freedom will not last without responsibility.

Her greatest concern is that citizens and some media practitioners are not acknowledging or accepting that responsibility.