Today, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, millions of people across the country have the day off from work to reflect on the inspiration that the late MLK gave to an entire nation in leading the Civil Rights Movement, and how he is still an inspiration to non-violent movements everywhere around the world to push for positive change nearly fifty years after his death.
Music has played an important role in helping to bond and unite strangers in times to need and moments throughout history when a change is needed to move the world forward. Two songs that come to mind which bring up societal inspiration is Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” and more recently, Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” If you had to pick between the two songs to inspire you today to go out and help make the world a better place, which would you choose?
“Rise Up” is the more recent of the two, and was the lead single off singer Andra Day’s debut album, 2015’s Cheers To The Fall. The song’s stripped down production really lets Day take the reins with her incredibly powerful and beautiful vocal abilities alongside the piano and string accompaniment. The heart of the song is of course its building chorus line, which carries the lyrics, “I’ll rise up, I’ll rise like the day/I’ll rise up, I’ll rise unafraid/I’ll rise up, and I'll do it a thousand times again.” She’s joined by a choir for small harmony parts as the song continues, but it is the overall gospel feeling of the song and Day’s ability to carry the entire movement with her voice that makes it such a moving and inspirational piece.
Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” may have come out of a different musical era, but still carries as much meaning to it in 2017 as it did in the sixties as it became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. Originally published in 1900 as "I'll Overcome Some Day" as a gospel song, the song was restructured by Seeger in the 1940s to fit a more commercial folk format. With lyrics like “Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe/We shall overcome someday.” and “We'll walk hand in hand/We'll walk hand in hand, some day,” it’s impossible not to feel the deeper meaning behind what the song has meant to so many people any time it is played. Joan Baez helped popularize it during the the sixties as it became an anthem to many who were struggling and working at making the world better.
So which one is your favorite? Which one inspires you the most to do something with your live that positively influences the world?