Top 10 Civil Rights Anthems for Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Martin Luther King Jr. loved South Florida. He visited the region many times throughout his career. He was a contemporary of some of Miami's most upstanding citizens, like Father Theodore Gibson of Overtown, as well as some of our most venerable party starters, like WMBM disc jockey Milton "Butterball" Smith. He even wrote an early version of the famous "I Have A Dream Speech" at the Hampton House Hotel and Villas in Miami's historic Brownsville neighborhood.
Today we celebrate the man, the myth, and the legend with the top ten civil rights anthems to commemorate the legacy of the struggle, and to remember that it continues to this day.
10. The Roots' "Can't Turn Me Round"
We may have a black president, but America is still an institutionally racist nation. The struggle for justice continues to this day, so it's a good thing The Roots are here to remind us of the past and help lead us into the future.
9. Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come
When Sam Cooke walked away from the gospel band he fronted, The Soul Stirrers, he crooned his way into America's pop charts with a hit called "You Send Me." But with "A Change Is Gonna Come," he dug into the very soul of the nation and delivered greater truth than any court.
8. James Brown's "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud"
One of the greatest singers and band leaders in the history of American music gave the world one of the funkiest positive affirmations in recorded sound at a time when it was dangerous to say what he was saying, and he did so fearlessly.
7. Nina Simone's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free"
Anybody at all can relate to the sentiments expressed in this song, which helped it resonate with the masses in a way that propelled the activist movement to the forefront of the nation's consciousness.
6. Charles Mingus's "Original Faubus Fables"
Mingus wrote the music and lyrics for this classic in direct to response to a Arkansas Governor Faubus who called in the National Guard to stop the integration of a high school in 1957. Some of the lyrics are "Oh, Lord, don't let 'em shoot us! Oh, Lord, don't let 'em stab us! Oh, Lord, don't let 'em tar and feather us!"
5. Public Enemy's "By the Time I Get to Arizona" (DJ Screw Chopped and Screwed Mix)
The day a modern American politician actively keeps his state from officially recognizing Martin Luther King Day is a good day to call him a dumb cracker.
4. Jackie Wilson's "When Will Our Day Come"
Straight outta Detroit, fired up, and ready to go, Jackie WIlson, the consummate entertainer, channels the underlying sentiments of pain and fury into virtuosic musicality.
3. Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready"
This poetic exposition on freedom employs biblical allusion, metaphor, and rhyming scheme working in concert to provide an awesome listening experience layered with oceans of meaning.
2. Ray Charles's "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
The '70s style arrangement doesn't take away from the gospelous impact of the lyrics.
1. "We Shall Overcome"
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.