Top 5 Songs That Sample Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Categories: Holidaze

Martin Luther King I Have a Dream.jpg
National Archives
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.
Today we all have a nice long weekend thanks to the birthday of one Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many people just see it as a day off, others just don't seem to understand why we celebrate it. But Dr. King was a civil rights pioneer who still inspires many to this day.

He inspires artists so much that they often use his words in their songs, either as a tribute to him or as a way to convey a certain message. In particular, his famous "I Have a Dream" speech has been sampled by 35 different musicians!

For the holiday, it seemed appropriate to listen to some of those songs and see what the musicians were trying to say in using Dr. King's words for their own purposes. Some of those songs aren't that great, unfortunately, but there are a lot of great ones that are fitting tributes to the man and his legacy, or at least don't abuse his words too much. These are some of those good ones.

5. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "The King"
A direct tribute to Dr. King, this is from a later Grandmaster Flash album called On the Strength, which was fairly poorly received in its time. On one hand, the song has a certain cheese factor to it. On the other, the dated '80s sound just about feels fresh again, given current production trends.

That fact is why "The King" probably sounds a lot better to me today than it did to listeners in 1988. It may not be the greatest rap track of all time, but it's a nice tribute to Dr. King and one of the surprisingly few songs directly about him in the rap world.


4. Paul McCartney, "The Fool on the Hill"
This 1990 live rendition of the Beatles classic from McCartney's Tripping the Live Fantastic album features a portion of Dr. King's speech and a little shout-out to Macca's former bandmates at the beginning. It's a prime cut from the elaborate live set Paul was doing in those days that sees him getting a little bit sentimental, and not even in the saccharine way he usually does.

In the context of the song, one can take it to mean that McCartney is implying that MLK was preaching to people who didn't want to listen and considered him a fool, even though if Dr. King were alive today he would have had the last laugh, like the titular character.


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