Gospel Music Tributes to Martin Luther King


The larger record buying public might think Dion’s lachrymose “Abraham, Martin and John” was one of the few songs recorded to pay tribute to Martin Luther King. However, the black gospel music community knows there are more tributes and references to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in gospel music than for any other political or social leader in history except, of course, for Jesus.

Most of the recordings were issued after King’s assassination in 1968. Columbia repackaged a handful of Mahalia Jackson recordings as a dedication album: Mahalia Jackson Sings the Best-Loved Hymns of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Columbia). Bandleader Ben Branch and the Operation Breadbasket (now Operation PUSH) Orchestra and Choir recorded The Last Request (Chess) in posthumous fulfillment of Dr. King’s request that Branch lead “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at a rally in Memphis, while the Southern Christian Leadership Conference leaders were in town for the Garbage Workers protest. As Rev. Jesse Jackson noted, “Until the making of this album, the orchestra was never able to fulfill Dr. King’s request.”

Though there are many, many more than listed here, below are a few gospel singles that pay tribute to the civil rights leader:

All-Star Gospel Singers – “I believe Martin Luther King made it” (Em-Jay)
Church of Love Choir – “Martin Luther King” (Glori)
Church of Love’s Children – “Martin Luther King (Glori)
Echos of Harmony – “The legacy of Martin Luther King” (G & PG)
Rev. Franklin Fondel & Fondel Gospel Singers – “Tribute to Martin Luther King” (Cross & Crown)
Rev. Claude Jeter – “In memory of Dr. Martin Luther King” (Hob)
Bro. Will Hairston – “Rev. King had a hard time” (Knowles)
Bro. Will Hairston – “March on to Montgomery” (Knowles)
Reuben Henry – “Three little boys: Robert, Martin Luther, and John” (Natural)
Reuben Henry – “Non violence” (Natural)
Hudson Chorale – “I have a dream” (Amanda)
Bobby Jones & New Life – “Martin” (Myrrh)
Mrs. Odell Knox & Famous South Land Singers – “The faith of Martin Luther King” (Designer)
Mrs. Odell Knox & Famous South Land Singers – “I have a dream” (Designer)
Loving Sisters – “Tribute to Dr. King” (Peacock)
Norfleet Brothers – “Story of Martin Luther King (part I)” (Rush)
Norfleet Brothers – “Story of Martin Luther King (part II)” (Rush)
Selma Gospel Singers – “Ode to Dr. King” (Selma Gospel Singers)
Sons of David – “March on, Dr. Martin Luther King” (Silver Cross)
Southern Belles – “Who Shall We Get” (Ziontone)
Bill Spivery & Sons of Truth – “The non-violent man” (Dee-Jay)
John Ford & the Gospel All Stars – “Sad so sad (A tribute to Dr. King)” (Zone)
Shirley Wahls – “We’ve got to keep movin’ on” (Smash)
Thomas Walton & Blind Disciples – “Ode to Martin Luther King” (Roadshow)
Elizabeth D. Williams – “Sleep on, Dr. King, sleep on” (Crown Limited)

Pay tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by playing or singing a gospel song today.

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.

3 comments

  1. Hello Mr.Bob Marovich,I’m Elbert Davis Jr..the grandchild of the late Elizabeth D Williams she made the song(“sleep on,Dr.King,sleep on”).I would like to know if you could help me find out if my grandmother song is still being played on Gospel stations.I still have her original album.Please call #205 815-7228 or email-elbertdavisjr@gmail.com

  2. Seven Seals Singers

    My father told my mother and me that we could not march in the Civil Right Marches. So my mother Saint Viola Carey and I would add our support by raising funds in singing Gospel music. I can recall during the late 1956 and early 1960s, how Saint Viola Carey and the Wonderful Seven Seals Singers of Newport News, Virginia used to perform concerts to support the Civil Rights Campaign in churches. Sometimes Saint Viola Carey and her son who is now Dr. James I Hicks, D. D. would sing to raise funds to help the needy. It was a pleasure to help those in need! Saint Viola Carey has gone to her rest in Celestial Paradise, but she did so much good before she left us.
    Thank you,
    Dr. James I Hicks and the Wonderful Seven Seals Singers. http://www.jamesihicks.org

  3. A marvelous story, Dr. Hicks — thank you for sharing it with us!

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