Denise Sullivan

Author, Journalist, Culture Worker

Happy Birthday Dr. King

It was a long road to the third Monday in January when all 50 states observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in their own unique ways.  Largely owed for making the dream of a King holiday a reality is Stevie Wonder, who back in 1980, wrote the pointed song “Happy Birthday” then launched a 41-city U.S. tour (and invited Gil Scott- Heron along) to promote the idea which was first mooted by Rep. John Conyers in 1968. The musical efforts were ultimately the key in collecting the millions of citizen signatures that had a direct impact on Congress passing the law signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, declaring a day for MLK. Observed for the first time in 1986, some states were late to the party, however, by the turn of the 21st Century, all were united in some form of remembrance of the civil rights giant. “Happy Birthday”, which served as the Wonder-campaign theme (and is now the “official” King holiday tune) is  the last track on Hotter Than July. The album also features “Master Blaster”, Wonder’s tribute to Bob Marley who had been scheduled for the tour till he fell too ill to participate. Stepping into the breach was Scott-Heron whose new book, The Last Holiday, is part memoir/part the story of how Wonder used a song to bring home a US federal holiday. Born in Atlanta Georgia on January 15, 1929, Dr. King would’ve been 83 this year.

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Filed under: Concerts, Gil Scott-Heron, , , , , , ,

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