He was one of the greatest icons of the 20th century thanks to his tireless fight for the civil rights of African-Americans. In 1963, Martin Luther King delivered a memorable speech that began with the phrase ‘I Have A Dream.’ Four words that gave identity to the movement in favor of the civil rights of African-Americans.
His murder on April 4, 1968, is one of the most relevant assassinations in history, and he was lamented throughout the world, also in the world of music with protest songs. Keep reading on the 10 Classic Rock Songs Inspired By Martin Luther King Jr.:
Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What
In the song, Simon persuasively argues that “life is what you make of it,” declaring that all human beings have the opportunity to do something magnificent with their lives. In the tune’s closing verse, Simon applies King’s life and legacy as an illustration of one person who urged a colossal cultural evolution.
Jimi Hendrix – House Burning Down
On the day Martin Luther King was killed, Jimi Hendrix had two concerts scheduled and only gave one, in which he dedicated a song, House burning down, which he wrote especially for him. from Included in Electric Ladyland, details her reaction to the activist’s death and subsequent riots. Hendrix was under pressure from friends associated with the Black Panthers to carry out violent action after King’s murder. Despite donating money to the Panthers, Hendrix continued to be an advocate for nonviolence.
U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love)
If there was any doubt that Martin Luther King Jr. is the subject of Pride (In The Name Of Love), Bono’s lyrics at three minutes hit the spot: “Early morning, April 4 / Shot rings out in the Memphis sky / Free at last, they took your life / They could not take your pride.” It matters little that the group located the event in the morning when it actually happened in the afternoon.
Nina Simone – Why (The King Of Love Is Dead)
The singer was totally linked to the struggle that Martin Luther King pursued. Such was the connection that he left the United States after his assassination. However, not only did she leave the country where she was born but she also paid her particular tribute with the song Why (the King of love is dead). A tribute that made the serious problem that existed around the racial conflict that existed in his country even more visible, especially, but that was also palpable in parts of the rest of the world.
Rage Against The Machine – Wake Up
The song also references government-led African-American figures, such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, going further, saying that the government organized their killings. The issue, from 1992, pointed out that King was removed from the middle because he “talked about Vietnam” and “gave power back to the poor.”
Elvis Presley – If I Can Dream
Just two months after the murder, a seemingly distant figure, Elvis Presley, recorded If I Can Dream, a Walter Earl Brown song that honored King and the dream he one day hoisted in his most famous speech. It is said that Elvis, who lived in Memphis, where the murder took place, was devastated by the tragedy and that he burst into tears watching the television broadcast of the funeral.
Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday
Stevie Wonder also spoke out in favor of racial demands through music. He composed Happy Birthday in 1981 for King as part of a campaign to get his birthday considered a national holiday, a goal that would be consummated six years later.
Queen – One Vision
“One Vision,” its foundations originated from drummer Roger Taylor. “I had a page, a sort of poem, that was sort of half nicked off Martin Luther King’s famous speech,” Taylor recalled many years later in the Queen documentary Days of Our Lives. “It was all about one this and one that.”
Prince – We March
For the tune “We March,” he addressed the essence of King, disputing how faraway racial justice in America had developed in the years since King’s assassination. Prince’s song, which was issued on 1995’s for his The Gold Experience, was used as an anthem for the Million Man March, which occured in Washington, D.C., later that year.
Ben Harper – Like A King
This song, from Ben Harper’s 1994 debut Welcome to the Cruel World, is a deeply rooted folk song with a strong political stance. Like a King draws parallels between Martin Luther King and Rodney King, a victim in the 1990s of police brutality cases. Harper’s stance on the matter is easily discernible: “Martin’s dream,” he claims, “has turned into Rodney’s worst nightmare.”