Today we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr's birthday with parades, music, dancing, conversation, and lots of basketball games. I still always have felt like we owe this important of a man and this important of a movement more than just a single day though. We owe freedom more than a parade, we owe equality more than a song, we owe opportunity more than a dance, we owe dreams more than one conversation, and we owe Civil Rights more than one dribble of a basketball. So I have tried to do my part by putting together a list of songs over the past 42 years that have demonstrated Martin Luther King Jr's message of freedom, opportunity, equality, and Civil Rights.*
*Songs that do not have descriptions are just awesome songs*
1969: The Beatles- "Here Comes The Sun"
The sun always comes up. Even when you had the worst night of your life, even when life just seems like an endless struggle, even when you have no hope, and even when you feeling dark- the sun is always going to come up and we can do nothing about it except stare in quiet awe. Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights movement faced a lot of opposition: violent opposition, verbal opposition, moral opposition, and a political opposition. But I think MLK always knew that the sun was going to come up for him and his movement and that is why he kept fighting. And the end result is the revolving door definition of equality that we continue to live in today. MLK's fight and determination made sure the sun was possible for millions of people.
1970: Van Morrison- "Into The Mystic"
What is a Blair Chopin list without a Van Morrison song? VM for me has always been the human symbol for freedom: his facial hair, his lyrics, his instrumentation, his album covers, and his songs have always ozzed what the stars and the stripes are supposed to stand for. "Into The Mystic" has always reminded me of the freedom to love, the freedom to pursue love, and the freedom to fail in love. Martin Luther King Jr. made sure that African-Americans had all of these opportunities.
1971: John Lennon- "Imagine"
You can call "Imagine" the ultimate #atheistanthem, but I have always viewed it as a call for togetherness. It is a call for people of different races, different ethnicities, different political parties, and different nationalities to come together and fight for the common good. MLK Jr. also called all kinds of different people together to fight for Civil Rights. He made peace something that was more than "imaginary."
1972: Neil Young- "Heart of Gold"
1973: Marvin Gaye- "Let's Get It On"
1974: Joe Cocker- "You Are So Beautiful"
1975: Pink Floyd- "Wish You Were Here"
Pink Floyd were progressive rock and Martin Luther King Jr made progression possible. Enough said.
1976: Fleetwood Mac- "Go On Your Own Way"
1977: Meat Loaf- "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad"
1978: Gloria Gaynor- "I Will Survive"
One of the more humbling things about life is that you are still here and reading this paragraph. While people are dying of by the dozen at the snap of one of our little fingers- we are still here and we are still able to do whatever the hell we want to do and pursue whatever the hell we want to do. When you think of all the people who have died and all of the times that you should have died, life itself becomes a consistent opportunity instead of being a consistent burden. I think Martin Luther King Jr always had the "Hey as long as we are here we might as well do something!" attitude and it gave him a life full of important accomplishment and made sure that even in death he survives. He survives in every street that is named after him, every black and white marriage and friendship, every minority that will vote in this November's election, and anyone that has a hope and anyone that has a dream. MLK's humbleness in life gave him a life past his life. That kind of impact is beyond significant- it is borderline genius.
1979: Led Zeppelin- "All My Love"
1980: Genesis- "Misunderstanding"
I have always claimed that I am misunderstood. Only a few people understand my jokes, the way I act, my beliefs, why I do the things I do, and why I spend so much damn time writing about weird topics. But it is humbling to think of something that was misunderstood to the point of Martyrdom like Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. I am pretty sure that I will never be that misunderstood and that my death will never result in something so beautiful, life changing, and significant. The thought of the man Martin Luther King Jr. was is beyond humbling- it is almost spiritually life changing.
1981: The Police: "Every Little Things She Does Is Magic"
1982: Michael Jackson: "Billie Jean"
A lot of people will put Michael Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr's significance in a lot better "terms" than I am about to put it in. But I think Michael Jackson essentially made black culture mainstream: he made what African-American sang and said important to a wide audience, he made the way African-Americans danced cool, and he killed all of the 1960's stereotypes about African Americans. I think Martin Luther King Jr. made it possible for Michael Jackson to reach a mainstream audience, to be "cool," and to kill all of the 1960's stereotypes about African Americans.
1983: Cyndi Lauper: "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"
1984: Chicago: "You're The Inspiration"
Just about everyone needs motivation and inspiration. Just about everyone needs a purpose and the others purpose is to live a purposeless life. But most of us need a reason to wake up in the morning: for some of us sex is the motivation, for some of us our work is the motivation, for some us our family is the motivation, for some us our "haters" are our motivation, and for some us reading MuzikDizcovery is the motivation. But we need to be motivated and we need to be inspired. Martin Luther King Jr. has motivated and inspired so many people just by his sheer existence that it is incredible. He might not be the reason many people get up out of bed in the morning but he might actually be the reason many people have a bed to get up on. He often times isn't the motivation and the inspiration, but often times he is the reason we are able to think of what motivates us and what inspires it. He goes beyond be motivational and inspirational.
1985: Aretha Franklin- "Freeway of Love"
1986: Run DMC & Aerosmith- "Walk This Way"
We always had that weird cement line in mainstream music. The blacks made their music and the whites made their music. The black people loved the black music and hated the white music and the white people loved the white music and hated the black music. This song brought the black and white cultures together- it made it cool for white people to like black music and it made it cool for black people to like white music. It ended musical stereotypes and promoted harmony and togetherness in a weird way. It was "I Have A Dream" in the form of a mediocre pop song.
1987: U2- "With or Without You"
U2 have always made the kind of music that sounds like it should be the soundtrack to some sort of mission trip or movement. Their music is peaceful but still has a purpose, it is forceful without sounding forced, and it is beautiful without being cliche. U2 "With or Without You" shows the quiet determination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights- "we are going to get this done- with or without you, we are going to change the world- with or without you" was the message and the motivation behind the Civil Rights movement.
1988: Taylor Danye- "I Will Always Love You"
1989: Phil Collins- "Two Hearts"
Love has always been the most effective message. In a world of depressions, recessions, and people not wearing any protection, it seems like love is the only positive message we can give and the only positive message that we can receive with any comprehension. The power of what people who love each other can accomplish is almost beyond belief. MLK Jr. understood this and that is why he created a freedom movement based off of "peaceful resistance" instead of a movement based off of senseless violence.
1990: Mariah Carey- "Vision of Love"
1991: Styx- "Show Me The Way"
Regardless of your thoughts on religion, the idea of heaven has to fascinate you to a certain extent. Even though I am fascinated by the thought of everlasting bliss, I am more fascinated by the idea that we can create a heaven on earth. I think MLK was fascinated by this idea as well and this is one of the reasons he promoted equality and basic human rights. We cannot create a utopia on earth if we do not have some equality. MLK made the thought of a "heaven on earth" possible.
1992: U2- "Love"
1993: Radiohead- "Creep"
A great thing about being an American is that you have the freedom to fail and the freedom to feel like a failure. "Creep" is being depressed for the sake of being depressed, being depressed at the sight of conformity, and being depressed because you have the freedom to be depressed. MLK gave African-Americans the freedom to feel something other than indifference, even if that feeling was creative sadness.
1994: Nirvana- "About A Girl"
1995: Pearl Jam- "Better Man"
The most important thing about Martin Luther King Jr's life is that by telling us to accept all people he made us "better men." This song is about striving to be a "better man" and that is something MLK helped us all do.
1996: Oasis- "Champagne Supernova"
1997: Radiohead- "No Surprises"
"No Surprises" is about being worn down by Capitalism and the struggles of middle class life. It is about not wanting to wake up for that job, it is about not wanting to take care of your family, not wanting to "play politics," and not wanting to be who everyone expects you to be (I just saw that commercial.) But really most pre 1970's African-Americans just wanted the opportunity to be worn down by Capitalism. They wanted the opportunity to wake up for a job they hated, they wanted an opportunity to be able to take care of their family, and they wanted to be what everyone expected the middle class person to be. They just wanted a chance. Martin Luther King Jr. gave them that chance.
1998: Aerosmith- "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing"
The pre 1970's African American was missing out on a lot of things. He was missing out on the opportunity to use the best facilities, he is missing out on the opportunity to have the best job, he is missing out on the opportunity to get the best education, he is missing out on love, and he is missing out on having a good life in general. Because of Martin Luther King Jr. now most willing African-Americans do not have to miss a thing. They can have a job, they can have the best facilities, they can go to school, and they can find love.
1999: Outkast- "Rosa Parks"
2000: Third Eye Blind- "Never Let You Go"
"Never Let You Go" showed us the youthful joy of finding a first love. But how was an African-American supposed to experience this youthful joy during Martin Luther King Jr's time? Everything around him was segregated, everyone around him was a racist, everything around him told him to give up, and everyday was just an opportunity to suffer. MLK Jr. made sure everyone could experience the peaks and valleys of love.
2001: Lee Greenwood- "God Bless The USA
It is tough to think of POSITIVE things about September 11th. It turned us into a fearful nation, a nation without privacy, a nation of two wars, and a nation suffering through an economic recession. It is hard to think of any positives that happened in the aftermath of September 11th, because we are constantly suffering through the negative effects of the tragic event. But I think one of the positives was how everyone came together after the event. We realized just how important every second of every day was. White kids held the hands of black adults, Christians hugged Jews, the rich held the poor, and the Democrats loved the Republicans. Everyone came together. MLK Jr. would have wanted everyone to come together.
2002: R. Kelly- "The World's Greatest"
Could you imagine an African-American in 1963 imagining he was the world's greatest at anything? How was he supposed to believe he was the greatest in a world were everyone spit on him and everyone segregated him for no reason? Was he supposed to think he was the world's greatest stepping stone? Now thanks to MLK anyone in the world can think they are the greatest at something. Like R. Kelly is the world's greatest urinator.
2003: OutKast- "Hey Ya"
"Hey Ya" has always been just three minutes and fifty five seconds of pure joy. It is a joy that does not make sense, it is joy without reason, and it is joy that is unconditional. For African-Americans in Martin Luther King Jr's time this joy was a rare as a clean bathroom. Now they have the same opportunity at this joy that anyone else has.
2004: Modest Mouse- "Float On"
Something about "Float On" is just so damn peaceful. I know it is supposed to be about how boring and how insignifigant we are, but sometimes being boring and insignifigant is the most peaceful thing there is in life. I mean is there anything better than getting that same first kiss that everyone gets? Is there anything better than writing that good paper that everyone writes? Is there anything better than renting that same apartment that everyone else is probably renting somewhere? Well for a well African-Americans did not even have the chance to "Float On." Martin Luther King Jr. made sure they could also get there chance at the boring and somewhat insignifigant.
2005: Coldplay-"Speed of Sound"
All of the other top 100 songs in 2005 sucked. To quote Martin Luther King Jr: "And when all of the rest of the music sucks, I want you to stand up and pick Coldplay! Stand up for yourself!"
2006: James Blunt- "You're Beautiful"
We identify individual beauty so easily that it is almost disturbing. We live in a culture that is so shallow that the two phrases men say the most are "I'd tap that" and "Hold on bro let me check my fantasy team!" It used to be that black men could not even dream of calling another woman "beautiful" though and they probably could not even dream of checking their fantasy teams! Anyway this song just describes a beautiful woman who was probably white. Before MLK "humanized" African-Americans they probably had to stare at any MILF'y white mamas with their chin up. Thanks MLK
2007: Plain White T's- "Hey There Delilah"
We now believe that marriage should be between "love and love," before that we believed it was between "a male and a female," and in Martin Luther King Jr's time some ignorant people believed it was only supposed to be between "white males and white females." We now of course believe that this belief is ignorant but in MLK Jr. time it was accepted in a weird way. Martin Luther King Jr. humanized African-Americans to make sure they were treated equally to their fellow man and that they could enjoy every type of love and pleasure possible. Even the long distance love described in "Hey There Delilah."
2008: Kid Rock- "All Summer Long"
Sometimes the simplest pleasures get lost on us. The pleasures of friendship get lost in work, the pleasures of relationships get lost in futile arguments, the pleasures of going out get lost in unemployment, and the pleasures of religion get lost in tragedy. In the 1960's it was tough for African-Americans to have any pleasures and they could not even imagine having simple pleasures in a time filled with this much struggle. Now because of MLK Jr's work African-American's can TRY to enjoy the simple pleasures in life that Kid Rock talks about in "All Summer Long."
2009: Coldplay- "Viva La Vida"
"Viva La Vida" is basically a song about ruling the song and finding God in everything. During the 1960's you could imagine that it was tough for African-American to even fathom coming close to ruling the world and seeing God in anything but his Bible and his church. Now in 2011, we have a black president and we have an entire "black culture" (BET for example.) It is becoming easier and easier for African-Americans to dream about ruling the world and believe in HIMSELF and GOD.
2010: Eminem- "Not Afraid"
Martin Luther King Jr's dream went hand in hand in a weird way with the American dream. He was making sure African American's had basic rights so they could have the two and half car garage, the two and a half kids, and the two and a half mistresses. Martin Luther King Jr. had to make sure that African-Americans not only had basic rights but that they were "Not Afraid" of going out and accomplishing their dreams. He did both of these to the best of his abilities.
2011: Jay-Z and Kanye West: "Niggas In Paris"
A lot of people having the wrong perception about Watch The Throne. They think that it is wrong to make an arrogant album that brags about how much money and how many women you have in the middle of any kind of economic or social turmoil. That is totally the wrong point of view to have. In a recession we need proof that we can become rich and in times of turmoil we need reassurance that at least one person was happy. Now one can make an argument that MLK Jr would not have liked the use of the N-word in the song title, but he would like to know that the black man can become rich in America and would be astonished that two black men can define a culture and come close to defining a decade. This may be a bad example of Martin Luther King Jr's dream being lived out, but it is still an example. Two black men had enough money to go to Paris, had enough fame to brag about it, and had the chance to make the most important song of the year.