Tom Morello, Thurston Moore, Graham Nash, Against Me! and more contributed songs to a new benefit compilation, Hugs for Chelsea, celebrating Chelsea Manning's release from prison. Manning's friend and activist Evan Greer organized the compilation, with proceeds going directly to Manning to help her cover basic living expenses as she returns to the free world Wednesday after seven years of incarceration.
Hugs for Chelsea also includes contributions from Amanda Palmer, Anti-Flag, Downtown Boys, Priests, Kimya Dawson and Sammus. While the majority of the comp comprises previously released material, it also includes unreleased tracks from Ted Leo, Screaming Females and Mirah. Greer also plans to keep adding songs to Hugs for Chelsea.
Several songs on Hugs for Chelsea are specifically about Manning, who, in 2013, was sentenced to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to providing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks (former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January). Thurston Moore's "Chelsea's Kiss" is a benefit track the former Sonic Youth rocker released in 2016, while Graham Nash shared "Almost Gone" – a collaboration with James Raymond – in 2013 to protest the particularly harsh conditions of Manning's incarceration.
"Chelsea Manning is one of my heroes," Nash said. "Anyone that has the courage to disturb the 'status quo,' to 'rock the boat' as she did is very brave and what she did was show some truth to the American people about what the government was doing in our name."
"As a transgender artist who fights for my community, it's hard to overstate the impact that Chelsea has had by sharing herself with the world," Greer tells Rolling Stone. "From her legal battles for access to hormones and appropriate clothing items to her highly publicized hunger strike, Chelsea fought for all trans people and secured victories that will benefit so many of us."
"She's been through so much and she needs our support," Michael Stipe added in a video promoting the project. "[Proceeds from the album will] help cover her basic needs as she transitions our of seven years of incarceration."
Along with Hugs for Chelsea, Greer and Manning's attorney, Chase Strangio, have set up a GoFundMe page to help raise additional funds for Manning.