Kirk Franklin, Maverick City Music for Juneteenth 2021 Apple Music Exclusive Playlist

Juneteenth is the day recognizing the news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reaching slaves in Texas. To honor Juneteenth 2021, Apple Music has commissioned a thoughtfully curated original playlist called, ‘Juneteenth 2021 Freedom Songs,’ made up of 20 exclusive new songs and covers from Kirk Franklin, Maverick City Music, H.E.R., and more.

Kirk Franklin, “We Shall Overcome”
The gospel giant honors the hope that is born from trauma.
“The Black experience in America is just so multilayered,” gospel legend Kirk Franklin tells Apple Music. “The things we celebrate are also things birthed out of tragedy. We are a group of people who have historically always taken lemons and made lemonade. I think [Juneteenth] is more than the acknowledgment of the day because we still have the issues of Reconstruction, we have Jim Crow, we still have segregation. Juneteenth was not this ‘Meet us in the promised land’ moment, because we still had to deal with and address so many other issues. And there is a myriad of systemic issues that people of color continue to have when it comes to the political history of the Americas.”

For Apple Music’s 2021 Juneteenth-inspired Freedom Songs, an exclusive collection of covers and originals, Franklin recorded an exclusive-to-Apple Music cover of gospel turned civil rights protest anthem “We Shall Overcome.” “To be able to take this historic chant that has meant so much to so many people of African descent and to be able to find a tone and a narrative and to be able to reimagine the different verses and reimagine the DNA of the song is humbling,” he says. “I hope that it’s something special for people.”

Maverick City Music, “Breathe”
The Atlanta-hailing contemporary Christian collective reminds us that our breath is sacred.
Like many who had learned the story behind Juneteenth as children, Maverick City’s Jonathan McReynolds was confused. “I had a very basic understanding and assumed at that point that someone could get on their cell phone and just call and tell everybody,” he tells Apple Music. “I remember my first reaction was ‘Why did it take so long?’” While that sort of indignation at the news of the Emancipation Proclamation not reaching some slaves until well over two years after its instatement is hardly uncommon, the faith-driven praise and worship collective is likely well familiar with the biblical directive of “lean not unto thine own understanding.” For their contribution to Apple Music’s Juneteenth-inspired Freedom Songs, a collection of covers and originals, the group delivered “Breathe,” a song McReynolds says he hopes reminds fans to be grateful in each moment. “Chandler [Moore] was praying in the session and talking about how the events that have taken place in America have a lot of us—especially Black men—waiting for the next shoe to drop,” McReynolds says. “As we began writing our way through it, we just realized this connection to all of the breaths that have been snuffed out over the past years because of racism and discrimination. So the first idea was centered around us bracing ourselves for the next issue, the next trending topic, the next killing, the next trial, and how necessary it is for us as believers—and just people in general—to make sure that we don’t miss out on living, praising, and believing because of worry.”

Madison Calley, “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing”
The harp-centric version your soul didn’t know it needed.
“I think Juneteenth is a perfect time to celebrate Blackness, celebrate freedom, and celebrate all the things that make us feel empowered in this world today,” Madison Calley says. For her contribution to Apple Music’s Freedom Songs, a collection of covers and originals inspired by the 2021 Juneteenth celebration, the harpist chose “Lift Every Voice and Sing”—also known as the Black National Anthem—a song she says embodies her own professional journey. “‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was written during a time when Jim Crow was replacing slavery and African Americans were searching for identity,” Calley says. “So this song I resonate with greatly, because it took me a long time as a musician to find my own identity and my own place in the world and in this industry.”

The Juneteenth Freedom Songs playlist is available today only on Apple Music. Listen HERE.

Sarah Hearn
the authorSarah Hearn
Sarah Hearn is Editor-in-Chief of, founded in 2011. The site was recently named among Feedspot's Top Gospel and Christian Music Websites.  Sarah is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Gospel Music Association.
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