Music has always been an important companion to social change and there are so many great songs associated with the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King in particular. Below are a few songs by classic rock artists that came to my mind on this MLK holiday.
Starting with the Boss and a very historic song . A gospel traditional that got adopted by the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s, the song was popularized by protest singer Pete Seeger. The song was a theme for one of King’s most famous speeches. Springsteen recorded a version of the song on his 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
Although there’s some debate as to whether the blackbird with a broken wing in this song is a metaphor for racial tension in America or a love song dedicated to a fan, the Beatles’ “Blackbird” from the band’s 1968 White Album has nonetheless been adopted by those concerned about the civil rights struggle.
A huge hit from U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire, the song reflects on the date he was assassinated. The Irish band also had a second song, “MLK,” dedicated to King on the Unforgettable album.
Lastly in the early eighties Stevie Wonder wrote this peppy gem to promote the campaign to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday.