In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 20, 2014, the OpenAir staff has compiled a short but memorable list of songs dedicated to the civil rights leader. You can stream each of the tracks via our Spotify playlist below!
While you're checking out our list, let us know if we missed any songs dedicated to the memory of this enormously important man by leaving a comment below!
Kris Kristofferson/Bob Dylan- "My God They Killed Him"
Kristofferson penned this tribute to the late Dr. King who "shook the land like the rolling thunder." Bob Dylan covered the song a year later for his Knocked Out Loaded album.
Stevie Wonder- "Happy Birthday"
Wonder, a longtime social activist, lobbied hard to get King's birthday established as a national holiday. He released "Happy Birthday" in 1980 to promote his campaign. Three years later, the holiday was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
Public Enemy- "By the Time I Get to Arizona"
Not every state honored MLK Jr. Day as a national holiday in 1991, Arizona being one of them. The members of Public Enemy voiced their frustrations in this politically-charged rap and its accompanying music video.
Dion- "Abraham, Martin, and John"
This oft-covered folk-pop tune was first made recorded by Dion in 1968, the same year in which Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The song, penned by Dick Holler, also recalls the deaths of U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
U2- "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "MLK"
U2's fourth album The Unforgettable Fire contained two songs dedicated to Dr. King, one of which, "Pride (In the Name of Love)," peaked at #2 on the Billboard Rock chart in 1984 and has since become one of the Irish band's most beloved tracks.
Patty Griffin- "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)"
Americana singer-songwriter Patty Griffin took inspiration from King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, delivered the day before his assassination. The song has since been covered by guitarist Jeff Beck among others.