10 Songs That Honour The Activism of Martin Luther King Jr

Fifty years ago today, on 4 April 1968, the great African American civil rights leader Martin Luther King was brutally gunned down in an assassination carried out by a white supremacist. Here, we take a look at some of the great songs which have been inspired by his legacy.

'Glory' - Common and John Legend

The Academy Award-winning lead song from the Selma soundtrack, which told the story of the Selma - Montgomery voting rights marches, which Martin Luther King Jr helped lead.

'MLK - U2

The first of two songs praising Martin Luther King in U2's Unforgettable Fire album, this was the shorter, more reflective cousin of 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)'.

'They Killed Him' - Kris Kristofferson

A tribute to activists who died at the hands of violence.

'Happy Birthday' - Stevie Wonder

Penned as part of the (successful) efforts to get Martin Luther King's birthday recognised as a national holiday.

'By The Time I Get To Arizona' - Public Enemy

Public Enemy's poignant response to the state of Arizona after the state voted down making a holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

'We Shall Overcome' - Bruce Springsteen

A defining cover of the song most associated with Civil Rights movements all across the world - from Washington to Derry.

'Pride' - U2

A stirring, breakthrough hit for U2, and also a glorious tribute to Martin Luther King - also from their Unforgettable Fire album.

'Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)' - Nina Simone

Directly after his death, Nina Simone wrote a song of love, hope, and heartbreak. “Will my country fall, stand or fall? / Is it too late for us all? / And did Martin Luther King just die in vain?”, she asked, 50 years ago.

'Wake Up' - Rage Against The Machine

In this blistering number from their debut album, RATM borrow its key closing line from one of King's most famous speeches, "How Long, Not Long." "How long, not long, because what you reap is what you sow," they ask, in a song about racism in modern America.

'Like A King' - Ben Harper

American blues-soul singer ties the hopefully legacy of Martin Luther King with the tragedy of Rodney King's beating at the hands of the LAPD.

 

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