The great man has been honored many times in song. Here are a few.
“Pride (In the Name of Love),” U2. This is actually one of two tributes to Dr. King on U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, the other being the aptly titled “MLK.” This is the one you know, though. “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” Public Enemy. The title is a funny riff on the Jimmy Webb classic “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” but there’s nothing funny about Arizona’s refusal to honor the federal Martin Luther King Day holiday. The state finally came around in 1992, but they weren’t the last to adopt: It took until 2000 for South Carolina to recognize MLK Day. “Why? (The King of Love is Dead),” Nina Simone. You’re going to want a tissue box nearby before you play this one. Recorded just days after Dr. King’s death, it’s a gut wrencher. “Abraham, Martin, and John,” Sammy Davis, Jr. This cut was a hit for Dion, but Sammy was a world changer in his own way, so let’s go with his version today. “A Dream,” Common. Dr. King’s speeches have been sampled in quite a few songs. This cut by Common was for the Freedom Riders soundtrack. “Happy Birthday,” Stevie Wonder. Stevie recorded this during the push to have Dr. King’s birthday recognized as a national holiday. “Blues for Martin Luther King,” Otis Spann. The cut on this playlist you’re least likely to know, and the one you’re most likely to dig. The great Otis Spann died in 1970 from liver cancer. He was only 40 years old. —photo public domain/Wikimedia Commons