2020 Grammys

ABC Celebrates America's Musical Independence

For ABC television's special "In Search of America: A July 4th Musical Celebration," host Peter Jennings says he wanted to connect aspects of American life through its music.

For ABC television's special "In Search of America: A July 4th Musical Celebration," host Peter Jennings says he wanted to connect aspects of American life through its music. So Independence Day celebrations from across the country will be featured -- including polka from Wisconsin and Cajun music from Louisiana. Folk singer Arlo Guthrie will open the night singing his father Woody's composition, "This Land is Your Land," and Jennings will remind viewers that it was written as a protest song.

"There are little things for people to learn without getting in their face on July Fourth," Jennings said. Guthrie was one of two acts that the "World News Tonight" anchor said he booked personally. The other is singer Sandi Patty, who will end the show with a performance of the national anthem.

In between, the three-hour show -- which airs at 8 p.m. ET tomorrow (July 4) -- will see Jennings introducing performances by Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams Jr., Brooks & Dunn, Los Lobos, and Gillian Welch, who will all perform in Livingston, Mont., according to the network. Alicia Keys and India.Arie will appear on the show from the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, while in New York Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Steve Tyrell will perform.

In addition, "In Search of America" will find Kirk Franklin performing in Dallas; Lonnie Brooks at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa; the United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants in Washington, D.C.; and Michigan Jake from the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartets Singing in America International Convention in Portland, Ore. The special will also visit Boston's annual Fourth of July concert on the Esplanade with the Boston Pops, conducted by Keith Lockhart.

Toby Keith was considered for the show, but was reportedly bounced by Jennings and ABC because he wanted to open with his Sept. 11-themed song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)." Last month Keith publicly lashed out about the situation, and supporters of the country singer, including Sen. Zell Miller (D-Georgia), said they would send used cowboy boots to Jennings in protest. Jennings said he hadn't seen any yet. "I have no idea what condition they will be in," he said. "But I've had any number of people, including my wife, say that if there's a size 8 in there..."

In the wake of the boot-kicking tempest, Keith was quoted as saying he found it "interesting" that Jennings was a Canadian. "I would point out that I was the one who was interested in doing this show because it would be a great patriotic, historic exercise," Jennings said. "But I don't resent [the comment]."

With the nation on alert for potential terrorist attacks on the holiday, Jennings said ABC is ready to turn the three hours into a news show if necessary. Jennings' setting is part of the contingency plan; he will be based at George Washington's Mount Vernon in Virginia because it's closer to home than Livingston, Mont., where he had been planning to go. "I take the president's advice to heart," he said. "You live your life and if life changes, life changes."

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