Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Though Song

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On January 15th, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. He was an American pastor, activist and humanitarian who helped advance the case of civil rights for all. I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite songs that pay tribute to, or was inspired by, Dr. King. I hope you enjoy. In no particular order:

“Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)” by Nina Simone: This song was written, recorded and performed within three days after his murder.

“MLK” by U2: A haunting lullaby. My college a cappella group did a cover of this song, and it gave me chills each time we sang it.

“Up To The Mountain” by Solomon Burke. I love Patty Griffin’s original, but Solomon’s cover is more moving to me insofar as Solomon knew Dr. King.

I’ve included Patty’s version too.

“People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals: This song was written in reaction to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. In a sad twist of fate, right before the single was released, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was The Rascal’s last top ten single.

“Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor: As James’ soft voice reminds us to “[l]et us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King”, the sound alone makes me feel the meaning of Mr. King’s nonviolent, civil disobedience.

“Pride In The Name Of Love” by U2: “Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride.”

“Like A King” by Ben Harper: If you don’t know about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, you should read up on it.

Finally: “Black Bird” by the Beatles: Though this song isn’t about Dr. King, it was inspired by the civil rights struggle for blacks, written by Paul McCartney after reading about race riots in the US.

 

Illumination Road | The Roxy | June 4, 2013

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A couple years ago, while throwing back some scotch at one of my favorite pubs in Santa Monica, Ye Olde King’s Head, I was introduced to a couple of musicians who were in a LA based band called Ironheel. They were in the process of putting together a full length album, and they gave me some sites where I could check out their music. Sometime the next day, probably while brewing some coffee to help get my groggy afternoon started, I sat down at my computer and looked them up. I got excited. It was raw rock and roll with killer bass lines that reminded me of some of the greats back from the 60s and 70s.

I’d bump into the guys on occasion at the bar and always ask how their music was going. I can’t seem to remember all of the details- I’m blaming the scotch- but what I did take away from our conversations that was that the band was going through some changes. I figured if they wanted to get further into it, they’d let me know.

Fast forward closer to the present, and after more drinks, Chris Ayden and Chad Mitchell Schlosser tell me that they rebooted the band with a new name, Illumination Road, but still took the same approach to the music that I had liked so much when they were in Ironheel. Apparently, their sound impressed others as well as they were asked to play a set at the Stone Music Festival in Australia where they shared the stage with the likes of Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Buckcherry  and the supergroup Kings of Chaos. When they told me that they were having their first ever  U.S. gig as Illumination Road at the Roxy, I had to check it out. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Good old fashioned rock and roll. An edgier version of the Kinks influenced by Hendrix?  Blue Oyster Cult with Robert Plant influenced vocals? A modern day The Guess Who (more “American Woman” than “No Time”)?  It’s hard to say at this point because they’re such a new band. And honestly, comparisons don’t mean anything. All I know is that there’s a sound here with this band that can really fill a current void in the rock-and-roll marketplace, and it’s a sound that is uniquely their own. If they keep writing songs like the ones I’ve heard, and keep rocking their live performance like I saw them do, maybe they’ll lead the charge to get music back to its classic rock roots.  After all, there is that whole cultural, cyclical hypothesis thingy…

Regardless, I’ll be keeping my eye on them to see where their jams take them. Check out the iPhone video clips I took, and if they pique your interest… pssst … they’re on Facebook.