Cleveland-born poet, writer, and activist Keith LaMar, 52, has spent the last year hard at work writing and performing new material for his first album, FREEDOM FIRST…from his cell at the Ohio State Penitentiary, where he has spent over 28 years in solitary confinement on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.
A collaboration with Brooklyn-based, Catalan pianist and composer Albert Marquès, FREEDOM FIRST is the first album in history by an artist on death row. LaMar is scheduled to be executed by the State of Ohio on November 16, 2023.
FREEDOM FIRST began in 2020 as a concert series involving dozens of musicians on the streets of New York during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, playing the jazz tunes that helped LaMar survive these long decades in solitary, including him speaking live by telephone between songs. In the album’s first track, “Calling All Souls,” LaMar says “The music you are about to listen to comes out of the realm of the impossible, something that, in reality, should not have been doable. Whether or not I am successful in stopping these people from killing me, you are right now listening to my last will and testament, the embodiment of everything I’ve endured, learned, and conquered.”