A Declaration of ‘Freedom’

Music luminary and artist Herb Alpert now has another feather to add to his cap.

Joined last Friday by nearly 100 friends from the music industry, art world and Native American community and flanked by dozens of TV cameras, Alpert was honored for a lifetime of artistic achievement during an outdoor dedicationof his towering “Freedom” totem sculpture.

Located alongside Pacific Coast Highway at the intersection East Rambla Vista Road, the nearly 17-foot “Freedom” is Alpert’s tribute to Native Americans, specifically the Chumash Tribe indigenous to the Malibu area. The idea for “Freedom” first came to Alpert as he sat on a beach in Ipanema, Brazil, and watched a flock of birds floating freely with the wind.

“I thought, ‘That’s the way I want to be,’” Alpert told the crowd Friday. “I want to do what I want to do, when I feel like doing it.”

Alpert, who first rose to fame in the early 1960s as the leader of the Tijuana Brass band, has been painting and sculpting for 30 years. He said the idea for “Freedom” sprang from an appreciation of how Native Americans and the local tribes that once inhabited Southern California “knew how to live in harmony with this earth,” while also recognizing the injustices they experienced at the hands of white settlers.

“When I think of all the ways we’ve used Native Americans…I think they got a raw deal,” Alpert said.

In addition to the sculpture, Friday’s event honored Alpert’s musical legacy and continued generosity toward future generations of musicians and producers. Since the start of his career with the Tijuana Brass, and stretching later to his executive career as the co-founder of influential A&M Records, Alpert has sold 75 million albums amid a seemingly endless resume.

 Among those in attendance at the ceremony were the musician Sting (whose career with The Police was launched by Alpert), producer Lou Adler and activist

Bobby Shriver. Live jazz, tango and Dixieland music played during the event, while traditional songs and dances were performed by the Southern California Indian Center.

Paula Starr, a performer with the Southern California Indian Center, said she was touched by Alpert’s decision to dedicate the statue to Native Americans.

“It was a humbling experience to be recognized,” Starr said. “We’re often forgotten.”

As she admired the statue, Starr said she saw Alpert’s message come to life.

“It’s free,” she said. “It really moves.”

Malibu City Councilman Lou La Monte presented Alpert with a commendation on behalf of the City of Malibu. He thanked Alpert for his “legendary generosity” and for making the drive along PCH more enjoyable with the “Freedom” totem on display.

Proof of the generosity to which La Monte alluded was on display from the very beginning. A student ensemble group from the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts kicked off the event with selections first made famous by Alpert’s Tijuana Brass band. The CalArts group was followed by a UCLA brass quartet. Alpert is a major donor to both schools’ music programs.

Alpert has been on a roll for the past year. In January he won a Best Pop Instrumental Album Grammy Award for his 2013 album “Steppin’ Out.” Last July he displayed a major art collection in Santa Monica and was honored by President Obama at the White House with a National Medal of the Arts for his achievements in the music industry, as well as his efforts to enhance the musical experience for future generations.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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