Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time to celebrate the great historical legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. There are many different ways one can go about observing the holiday, but one in particular is to take in all the different forms of media that have been inspired by King. There have been documentaries, films, and plays that tell all or part of his story. But instead of looking at straight adaptations of parts of his life, let’s instead go to the world of music and see how artists took inspiration from King and channeled it into song. Here are 5 songs inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy.
“Glory” – Common and John Legend
This song was written for the 2014 film Selma, which depicts the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by King. John Legend brings some great soul to the chorus of the song. That pairs well with Common’s rapped verses, which highlight the importance of what King did and how it continues to resonate today.
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” – U2
One of U2’s classic tracks. It’s understandable if someone was too distracted by the sweeping guitar work and big bass line to realize who the song is about. The lyrics are simple, but are meant to achieve a more emotional feeling for the song.
“Happy Birthday” – Stevie Wonder
For anyone that didn’t know, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was placed where it is on the calendar to be close to King’s birthday. Wonder wrote this song before the holiday was officially created to help popularize the idea of it. The laid-back synthesizer groove of the song draws you in to what is, along with it’s great message, just a nice track to listen to.
“By the Time I Get to Arizona” – Public Enemy
Of course, while many were receptive to the idea of a holiday to celebrate such an iconic figure, there will always be people that are behind the times. That’s where this song comes in, written as a hard-hitting retort to the governor of Arizona who refused to acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr. Day once it was officially created in 1986. The track has a great beat and Chuck D’s strong lyrics flow really good on top of it.
“Abraham, Martin and John” – Dion
This song connects Martin Luther King Jr. with Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy as four people who tried to do good for people and were taken from the Earth too soon. The instrumentation of the song along with Dion’s vocal come together to create an emotional song that laments the loss of such forces for good, like King.
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Featured image courtesy of Columbia Records.