Today (1.16.2017) is MLK Day here in America, honoring the January 15th birthday of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (he would have been 88 this year). And, the first 80s song that always comes to mind about Dr. King is the lovely tribute, “MLK” by U2.
It wasn’t long after the sad assassination of Dr. King in April 1968 that cities and states around the U.S. were marking a special holiday for him. A bill to make Dr. King’s birthday a federal holiday was first introduced in 1979, but fell just five votes short. At the time, only two historical figures had holidays named after them – George Washington and Christopher Columbus. For many folks in Governmental circles, it was a hard sell to mark a holiday named after MLK.
Non-Governmental folks were determined, though, to get a holiday for Dr. King, and in 1981, some six million Americans signed a petition for Congress to mark a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. According to a 2006 article in the U.S. magazine, THE NATION, this petition was THE “largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. History.”
President Ronald Reagan was originally opposed to the idea of a national holiday for MLK, concerned about costs, but on November 2, 1983, he signed a bill to have a federal holiday holiday in Dr. King’s name. On January 20, 1986, the first MLK Day was observed coast to coast.
Less than a year after Ronald Reagan signed the MLK Day bill, Ireland’s U2 released their brilliant fourth studio album, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE. Of the ten songs on THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE, two are dedicated to Dr. King – the first American Top 40 hit for U2, “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and the lovely elegy to Dr. King and album closer, simply titled, “MLK.”
According to U2 frontman and lead singer, Bono, “MLK” was written “as sort of a lullaby for an idea that was dying in our country: the idea of non-violence…All inspired by a black reverend from Atlanta who refused to hate because he thought love would do a better job.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of hope and peace and love and non-violence remains strong today, with Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis (who was just 18 years old when he met Dr. King in 1958) among those continuing to promote Dr. King’s message, and not backing down from his vocal discontent for incoming U.S. President Donald Trump.
But, I really don’t want to talk about Donald Trump here. Instead, I just want to pay tribute to a great man who was gone far too soon, but definitely not forgotten…