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Robert Fripp and Toyah Willcox play Rockin’ in the Free World in solidarity with Ukraine

Robert Fripp and Toyah Willcox have posted a cover of Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World in a show of support for the people of Ukraine.

The video sees Fripp, wearing the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine, accompanied by Willcox on vocals and wielding what we can only describe as a percussive skirt.

In the background are hand-painted signs that read: “A free world for all is the dog bollocks” [that’s British slang for “the best” or “very good”, don’t ask why – UK Ed] and “Neil Young. 1989. Freedom.”

Rockin’ In The Free World was written by Neil Young in February 1989 and recorded in June of that year. It was reportedly conceived after the songwriter learned that a planned tour of the Soviet Union had been cancelled by the authorities. 

The title line came from Young’s guitarist Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro. “It just fell through,” Sampedro told Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) in 2013. “Neil was like, ‘Damn, I really wanted to go.’ I said, ‘Me too. I guess we’ll have to keep on rockin’ in the free world.’”

The song has been hailed as Young’s best of that decade and had an immediate resonance, both in songwriter’s own career and as an influence and role model for other musicians. His timing was also superb: the album was released in October and the Berlin Wall fell in November.

As music writer Barney Hoskyns puts it in his book Ragged Glories: “Rockin’ In The Free World made young both the elder statesman of rock rebellion and the godfather of the new punk rock – grunge.”

Fripp and Willcox’s interpretation perhaps lacks some of that impact, but is still as scratchy, endearing and make-up clad as the duo’s finest Sunday Lunch efforts. It is also among their most poignant posts yet. 

At the close of the short clip, Fripp sums up their intentions: “Sunday Lunch, for everyone in the world, free, with love.”

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Matt Parker
Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.