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A Musical Time Line Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

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A Musical Timeline Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was dedicated his existence to uniting people of all cultures and walks of life, something we should all still be striving for in the seemingly undying battle for peace. There is an endless list of what MLK inspired in his lifetime and beyond. We will never be able to pay him or his family the proper homage that they truly deserve for the mark they’ve carved in history because it cannot be matched. Not only did this great man affect politics, culture and history, but he changed music as well.

Let’s take a look at a musical time line inspired by the late and great Martin Luther King, Jr., may he rest in peace.

  • August 1932Thomas A. Dorsey loses his wife and son during a tumultuous childbirth. In his grief, he penned “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” derived from a 1844 hymn, “Maitland.” “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” would grow to be Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favorite song.

    kendrick lamar backseat freestyle martin luther king mlk i have a dream black history
    Artists like Kendrick Lamar have been inspired to make music to remind a new generation of the great MLK.


  • 1963Mahalia Jackson records “If I can help somebody” after being strongly encouraged to by MLK. He originally heard the song performed by Anna Lee Williams and fell in love with it so much, he insisted on Jackson’s rendition.


  • August 28, 1963 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Gives the unmatched “I Have a Dream” speech. This speech moved anyone’s ears it touched including, and especially, musicians. His speech would reach so far in the musical world, it would be sampled for years to come. Some notable modern day artists have sampled the speech, including:
    • Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five (”The King” in 1988)
    • Michael Jackson (”HIStory” in 1995)
    • DJ Quicksilver (”I Have a Dream” in 1996)
    • Gwen Stefani (”Long Way to Go” ft Andre’ 3000 in 2005)
    • Common (”A Dream” ft in 2006)
    • The Game (”Life is But a Dream” in 2013)


  • 1981Stevie Wonder writes “Happy Birthday” as a part of a campaign to have MLK’s birthday recognized as a national holiday. “I just never understood, how a man who died for good/could not have a day that would be set aside for his recognition,” he sings.


  • 1986Tina Marie, Whitney Houston, Fat Boys, Menudo, El Debarge, New Edition, Run-D.M.C. collaborate to honor Dr. King for “King Holiday.”


  • 2013Kendrick Lamar crafts his “Backseat Freestyle” and includes many references to his hero, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Musicians worldwide, let’s never let MLK’s memory fade. Every generation needs to be aware of the significance this man has in history. We have a powerful tool to influence those who will one day run our country and even some who already have pull. Use you music as power and contribute to society for the better; strive to be more like Martin Luther King, Jr.

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