It was written in response to the 9/11 attacks in America. On the morning of 11 September 2001 McCartney and Heather Mills were on an aeroplane waiting to leave New York for England, when terrorists truck the Twin Towers and all flights were grounded. From his window McCartney could see smoke rising from the towers.
I witnessed the last moments of the World Trade Center twin towers. Out of the window of the plane I could see the towers smoking and in flames and, like everybody, I could not believe what was happening.
As the airport was then closed, I stayed in New York for a week after the attack and I was able to also witness the tremendous heroism that has come out of the city, including the bravery of the firefighters and police officers. I have great admiration for the courage all of those guys showed. I feel a connection with the firemen because my father was a volunteer fireman in Liverpool during World War Two.
McCartney reportedly wrote ‘Freedom’ swiftly after the events, although it may have been based on a 1992 demo, ‘Give Me The Right To Freedom’.
He also helped organise the Concert For New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001, during which he performed ‘Freedom’ live twice – firstly with his band, then again as an encore with the rest of the performers including Eric Clapton on lead guitar.
McCartney then took the live recording into New York’s Quad Studios, where he re-recorded his vocals, added a new bass guitar part, and taped a new guitar solo. The result was known as ‘Freedom’ (Studio Mix).
‘Freedom’ was rush-released on 5 November 2001. McCartney’s recent single ‘From A Lover To A Friend’ was withdrawn and ‘Freedom’ was issued with the same catalogue number, making it technically a replacement rather than a separate single.
The new version contained ‘Freedom’ (Studio Mix), ‘From A Lover To A Friend’, and ‘From A Lover To A Friend’ (David Kahne Remix 2).
‘Freedom’ was also included as a late addition to Driving Rain, as the final track. Initial copies did not list it on the running order.
McCartney first performed ‘Freedom’ during the Concert For New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001.
It was next played during an appearance on CD:UK on British television on 24 November, and again during the Nobel Peace Price 100th Anniversary Concert in Oslo on 11 December.
McCartney next performed ‘Freedom’ during the Super Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on 3 February 2003, prior to the New England Patriots’ victory over the St Lous Rams.
‘Freedom’ remained in McCartney’s live set during his Driving USA Tour and Back In The US Tour, both in 2002. It was last played in Phoenix, Arizona, on 29 October.
A recording from the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas, on 9 May 2002 can be heard on the live album Back In The US.