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Songs for Dr. Martin Luther King Day

America honors Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday on January 15th. He is remembered as a civil rights leader of the 1960s, who helped energize the spirit of minority ethnic groups and advocated peaceful solutions for all cultures. "Pride in the Name of Love" by U2 is commonly sited for its tribute to Dr. King. U2 has another song on the album Unforgettable Fire called "MLK."

Other well-known tributes include "Abraham, Martin and John" by Dion, "Happy Birthday" by Stevie Wonder, "By the Time I Get to Arizona" by Public Enemy, "King" by UB40 and "King Holiday" by various artists including Whitney Houston, The Fat Boys and Run DMC. The song "A Dream" by Common samples Dr. King's famous speech.

The theme of human equality is appropriate to expand upon for a King Day playlist. Songs that focus on the issue of human rights include "Blackbird" by The Beatles, "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby & The Range and "The Last Resort" by The Eagles. Songs that echoed the sentiment of Dr. King's speeches include "Everyday People" by Sly & The Family Stone, "Love Train" by The O'Jays and "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder.

Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)" was inspired by Dr. King's legendary "mountaintop" speech. "They Killed Him" by Kris Kristofferson was later covered by Bob Dylan. Ben Harper's first album in 1994 included the King tribute song "Like a King." Other songs that pay tribute to King include "Ballad of Birmingham" by Jerry Moore and "Shed a Little Light" by James Taylor. The 60s anthem "We Shall Overcome" was a phrase the orator used often. It was also a folk anthem recorded by Peter Seeger, Joan Baez and many other artists.

A gem worth digging up is "American Dream" by Bobby Wommack. The 1984 recording features samples of the "I have a dream" speech.

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