On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, declaring in his landmark speech “I Have A Dream”: “Now is the time to turn our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” “
In 2012, the Recording Academy recognized King’s speech for its historical significance by inducting it into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame. “I Have A Dream” was performed in front of 250,000 people and was the culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a rally organized by a coalition of civil rights organizations calling for the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation and a job creation program, among other things demanded demands.
Several artists have used music over the years to call for solid rock of brotherhood and sisterly love. GRAMMY winner Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul & Mary; and Mahalia Jackson were among the artists who stood alongside King at the March on Washington and dared to dream of a better America. On August 28, President Barack Obama — along with other GRAMMY winners such as LeAnn Rimes and BeBe Winans, as well as former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — will deliver his own speech at the Let Freedom Ring Memorial Ceremony and Call to Action ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
As bells ring across the country, we encourage you to ring freedom by marching to the beat of our March on Washington 50th Anniversary GRAMMY playlist.
“Blow in the Wind”
Peter, Paul & Mary, Best Performance by a Vocal Group, Best Folk Recording, 1963; GRAMMY Hall of Fame inducted in 2003
Peter, Paul & Mary’s cover of Bob Dylan’s popular protest song was one of two songs performed by the trio at the March on Washington. The two-time GRAMMY-winning track aptly asked the protesters, “How many streets does a man have to walk down/before you call him a man?” The answer, of course, was in the wind.
“A change will come”
Sam Cooke, GRAMMY Hall of Fame, recorded 2000
Considered one of the defining anthems of the civil rights movement, “A Change Is Gonna Come” was released by R&B singer Cooke in 1964 in response to Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind.” Cooke’s harrowing track was voted number 12 Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and embodies the hope and change King called for 50 years ago.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, GRAMMY Hall of Fame, recorded 2009
Although “Ohio” was written by Canadian Neil Young, it addressed the outrage many felt at the Kent State shootings in Kent, Ohio, in 1970. The song openly questioned the deaths of four unarmed students killed by the Ohio National Guard during a campus protest against the Vietnam War.
“get up get up”
Bob Marley & The Wailers, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, recorded 1999
Written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, this classic reggae tune was included on the Wailers’ 1973 album burn into‘. The group’s signature call to action urged people to “stand up, stand up/stand up for your rights.” In 1999, the track became the first reggae song to be inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
“Born in the USA”
Bruce SpringsteenRecord of the Year nomination, 1985
Though often misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem, “Born In The USA” actually speaks to the desperate downside of the American Dream that some Vietnam War veterans are encountering. Still, the album of the same name earned a GRAMMY nomination for Album of the Year, spawned no fewer than seven Top 10 hits, and was inducted into the 2012 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.
“Fight Against Power”
Public Enemy, nominated for Best Rap Performance, 1989
It could take a nation of millions to hold back listeners to Public Enemy’s confrontational and controversial hit “Fight The Power.” Chosen by director Spike Lee as the musical theme for his 1989 film do the right thingthe track calls out everyone from Elvis to the American government and implores the people to “fight the powerful”.
Rage Against The Machine, Best Hard Rock Performance, 2000
On the GRAMMY-nominated 1999 Rage Against The Machine album The Battle of Los Angeles“Guerrilla Radio” is the band’s call to turn off the lights, turn up the volume on the radio, and shut down those they describe as “vultures thirsty for blood and oil.”
The Beatles, The Beatles, GRAMMY Hall of Fame inducted 2000
A year before John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously held a two-week bed-in for peace in 1969, The Beatles released this Lennon/McCartney-penned tune featured on The Beatles (“The White Album”). The song addressed Lennon’s skepticism about some of the radical tactics used to protest the Vietnam War and offered a tongue-in-cheek guarantee that everything “will be okay.”
Edwin Starr, Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male Nominee, 1970
Written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield in protest of the Vietnam War, War was originally recorded by the Temptations. Starr’s version of this classic track propelled him to legendary status on the soul scene. His cover was intense and direct, saying simply, “I said war, goodness ya’ll / What’s it good for? / Absolutely nothing!”
Bob Dylan, GRAMMY Hall of Fame, recorded 2013
Following the release of “Blowin’ In The Wind,” Dylan delivered another anthemic protest song, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Since its release in 1964, the song has been covered during challenging and ever-changing times by artists such as The Beach Boys, Joan Baez, Phil Collins, Billy Joel and Nina Simone, among others.
“What the world needs now is love”
Jackie DeShannon, GRAMMY Hall of Fame, recorded 2008
After all the protests, marches, and calls for change have quieted down, there’s probably no song that should be cranked up louder than DeShannon’s 1965 hit “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” Per DeShannon: All We Need Is “Love, sweet love/No, not just for some, but for all.”
Do you know a song that changed the world? Let us know in the comments.